Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin the defense of their championship at home against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
Tampa Bay is coming off a season where they became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl at their home stadium. Tom Brady is a year older but if he is who we saw briefly during the preseason, then age may just be a number for the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
Dallas meanwhile is happy to get Dak Prescott back after missing most of the 2020 season with a serious ankle injury. Prescott didn’t play during the preseason so there are doubts as to whether he can return to form right away. The Cowboys will also be without one of their best offensive players in Zack Martin who will miss this game after testing positive for COVID-19.
Oddsmakers have high hopes for the Cowboys who are the betting favorites to win the NFC East. However, while they are expected to be better than their 5-11 2020 campaign, it remains to be seen how good they can be considering QB Dak Prescott is coming off a serious ankle injury.
Before he got hurt, Prescott turned in three 400 passing yard games. But even if that’s the Dak Prescott that shows up on Thursday, the Dallas offense won’t be 100% as they will be without six-time Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin who is out due to COVID-19 protocols.
Dallas hired Dan Quinn as their defensive coordinator after the 2020 season and it also remains to be seen how they will adjust to their new system. The Cowboys finished the 2020 season second from the bottom in rushing yards allowed and that could be an issue here.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers closed out their 2020 campaign with a tear. The Bucs won their last eight games while scoring 30 or more points in seven of those games despite playing only two home games during that span. Tampa Bay also defeated their opponents by an average winning margin of close to 15 points per game. With management bringing back every member of the Super Bowl LV winning team in week 1, there’s no reason to expect differently.
Tom Brady had a terrific season culminated by the Super Bowl MVP award. Brady completed 65.7% of his passes for 4,633 passing yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His best weapon was Mike Evans who caught 1,006 receiving yards with 13 touchdowns.
But while their offense was great, the Bucs’ run defense was also splendid, as they led the league in rushing yards allowed for the second consecutive season. While the Cowboys lost a key starter due to COVID-19, the Bucs will get Ndamukong Suh from the COVID-19 list just in time for the season opener.
The Cowboys were 5-11 SU during the 2020 regular season. Dallas is 2-9 SU in their last 11 games played on the road. Dak Prescott is just 10-19 SU in 29 games against playoff teams and 4-11 SU when playing postseason teams on the road. Head to head, the Cowboys have won seven out of their last 10 games played against the Bucs, but of course, none of those games had Tom Brady.
Tampa Bay has won its last eight games played. The Bucs are 7-0 in their last seven games against the NFC East, and 4-1 in their last five games played at home. Super Bowl champions are 18-3 SU in Week 1 games since 1996. Tom Brady is 5-1 SU in such games played.
With Prescott playing his first game in almost a year, expect Ezekiel Elliott to get plenty of touches here. While Elliott is a very capable running back, his performance could be affected by the absence of guard Zack Martin who is out due to COVID-19 protocols.
As Elliott said himself, most of the team’s runs come behind Martin and without him, their offense is compromised. Martin would’ve also been a solid wall in front of Prescott who may still be fragile coming off a major ankle injury.
Dallas had one of the worst run defenses last season and the Bucs should have no issues moving the ball. Once the running game gets the attention of the defense, things will open up for Tom Brady.
Give me the Bucs to win this one.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -385
The Cowboys are 5-11 ATS in their last 16 games overall. Dallas is 2-5 ATS in their last seven Week 1 game, 4-11 ATS in their last 15 Thursday games, 3-9 ATS in their last 12 against the NFC, 0-4 ATS in their last for September games, 0-4 ATS in their last four games played on grass, and 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games played on the road.
The Bucs are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall. Tampa Bay is 4-0 ATS in their last four games played at home, 4-1 ATS in their last five games against the NFC, and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games played on grass. Historically Super Bowl winners are 13-6-2 ATS since 1996. Brady is 5-1 ATS in week 1 games coming off a Super Bowl win.
The Cowboys had issues on the defensive side of the field last season and they didn’t do much to improve their secondary during the offseason. If their pass rush doesn’t get to Brady on time, expect the seven-time Super Bowl winner to pick them apart with his play-action game which should open up after the Bucs test the Cowboys’ poor rush defense. I like Tampa Bay to win by double digits here.
Prediction: Buccaneers -8
The total has gone over in five out of the last seven games played by the Cowboys. The over is 4-1 in their last five games against the NFC, and 4-0 in their last four games as the betting underdogs.
The total has gone over in eight out of the last 10 games of the Bucs as betting favorites. The over is 4-1 in their last five Week 1 games, 4-1 in their last five September games, 19-7 in their last 26 against the NFC, 7-3 in their last 10 Thursday games, and 23-11 in their last 34 games played overall.
Head to head, the total has gone under in each of the last five meetings between these two teams. The under is also 4-1 in their last five games in Tampa Bay.
The Bucs were the third-highest scoring team in the league last season and with management bringing back every starter from that Super Bowl LV winning team, I expect to see that kind of offense again this season. With Dallas allowing 29 points per game this season, New England shouldn’t find it hard to score.
However, to go over, the Bucs need the help of the Cowboys and they may not get much. Prescott is a big question mark coming off a serious injury plus Zack Martin’s absence will make it harder for Dallas to move the ball and score.
New England scores at least 30 points but I don’t think the Cowboys’ offense will cooperate. The betting trends say over, but those do not factor in Prescott’s condition and Martin’s absence.
Prediction: Under 52
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