Bucs Title Defense Starts Thursday night
The 2021 NFL season kicks off Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium as Tampa Bay opens its title defense against the Dallas Cowboys. There will be no shortage of star power in this one as both sidelines are lined with some of the biggest names in the league.
But will the superstars on both sides translate to a close-to-even game?
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Can Dak Resume Historic Pace?
Before his season-ending ankle injury, Dak Prescott was on pace to shatter the NFL record for passing yards in a single season. The Cowboys star QB tossed 1,856 yards through five games which translates to nearly 6,000 yards over the course of a 16-game season. Peyton Manning holds the record with 5,477 yards in the 2013 season. However, even with Dak’s eye-popping 371 yards a game, the Cowboys lost three of those first five games. The Cowboys may need similar numbers, if not more, to have a chance at the season-opening upset Thursday night.
Tampa’s WRs vs. Dallas Defense
If you are looking for a reason to back the Buccaneers at covering the spread, look no further than this key matchup.
The Cowboys allowed just under 30 points per game last season. Although the unit improved over the last four games of the season (20 ppg), Dallas also did not face a three-headed monster on the outside like they will see Thursday night. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown may be the top 1-2-3 wide receiver trio in the league. Add in Tom Brady and the matchup is unfair. It took some time for Brady to get into the swing of things last season, but this year he’s had a full training camp and preseason to work on that continuity.
Can Dallas Stop the Run?
If you are not fully convinced on taking the Bucs to cover based on the mismatch in the passing game, allow us to present Exhibit B. The Cowboys’ defense allowed just under 160 yards per game last season, second-worst only to Houston. Like the receiving trio, Tampa Bay has solid triplets in the backfield as well with Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Giovani Bernard. Again, advantage Tampa.
How Can Dallas Keep Pace?
The Cowboys will need to be balanced on offense. If Dak is called on to drop back 50 times and try to pass for 500 yards, the Bucs are going to run away with this one. Dallas will need to get the running game going and not be one-dimensional. Last season Ezekiel Elliott was unable to shoulder the load and produced the lowest rushing total of his career with 979 yards for the season. If Elliott can start off strong Thursday night against a talented Tampa front seven, it could bode well for the Dallas passing game and staying within striking range.
Game Betting Odds
Bettors taking Tampa to cover the -7.5 spread will have odds of -115 while those backing the ‘Boys to cover will have slightly better odds at -105. With as high-flying as both offenses have the potential to be, MyBookie has set the Over/Under point total at 52 with odds to cover either side at -110.
Tom Brady is 5-0 in his career against the spread in games played against the Cowboys. Tampa is 4-0 ATS in its last four home games.
Dallas was 5-11 ATS last season which was worst in the NFL, while Tampa was 12-8 ATS.
The Over has hit in the last four games in which Dallas was an underdog, while the Over has hit in 7 of the last 10 Thursday night games for Tampa.
Coming off a seventh Super Bowl Championship and playing in front of an amped-up home crowd, Tom Brady rolls in this opener. Simply put, Tampa has way too many weapons for an average, at best, Cowboys defense.
Buccaneers 38, Cowboys 17
With all of the uncertainties around the Cowboys, Tampa could be a safe bet. But taking it a step further, Tampa -4 in the first half is looking like a solid play as well. Bovada, another one of the top sportsbooks at Online Betting Sports, has the odds at -120 for Tampa to cover the first-half spread.