Cowboys at Buccaneers time, odds, pick, TV, how to stream: Tom Brady and Tampa Bay begin quest to repeat

The 2021 NFL season is lastly right here. The street to Los Angeles begins Thursday evening, with the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers internet hosting the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). 

The Bucs return all 22 starters from final yr’s staff — the primary time a Super Bowl staff has finished so for the reason that Nineteen Seventies. The Cowboys, in the meantime, get again their beginning quarterback and each of their beginning tackles, the three of whom mixed to play simply seven video games final season. 

A wealth of expertise shall be on show on either side of the ball, so let’s simply get proper to it and break down the matchup.

The best way to watch

Date: Thursday, Sept. 9 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
NBC | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
Comply with: CBS Sports App
Odds: Buccaneers -8.5, O/U 51.5

When the Cowboys have the ball

The story of the Cowboys’ season — a minimum of on offense — is all about well being. Dak Prescott is about to return from not solely the scary ankle damage he suffered final season, but additionally the shoulder pressure that plagued him all through coaching camp. Tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are again from season-ending accidents of their very own, and Amari Cooper is again after offseason foot surgical procedure. Nonetheless, Zack Martin, who missed six video games final yr, is at risk of lacking this one after testing positive for COVID-19. (He has but to be formally dominated out.) 

Martin’s absence is a serious downside towards a Tampa Bay defensive position that could be very sturdy up the center with Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh, to not point out Steve McLendon and Rakeem Nunez-Roches behind them. Dallas will possible begin Connor McGovern in Martin’s place, with Tyler Biadasz and Connor Williams filling out the offensive inside. The Bucs have been the league’s No. 1 protection towards the run final season, in addition to the No. 1 protection in Adjusted Line Yards allowed on runs up the center, per Soccer Outsiders. 

With out Martin, it appears possible the Cowboys will battle to get a lot in the way in which of an up-the-middle push forward of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. As such, they might absolutely be higher off attacking the Bucs on the perimeter, the place they’re extra prone to create benefits. Avoiding the temptation to go along with a conservative play-calling strategy (which performs immediately into Tampa’s strengths) within the absence of their All-Professional guard shall be a key determinant in whether or not the Cowboys are capable of finding any diploma of offensive success. 

Dallas’ three-receiver set of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb was too static too usually final season. Lamb aligned within the slot on 91% of his snaps, per Tru Media, the best charge within the league amongst gamers who performed a minimum of 10 snaps per sport. That restricted Cooper and Gallup to virtually solely operating their routes on the surface. Gallup aligned there on 95% of his snaps, additionally the best charge within the league amongst certified gamers, whereas Cooper was there on 70% of his snaps.

The Cowboys reportedly plan to maneuver the trio round extra usually this season — and they need to. That is very true towards the Bucs, the place slot man Sean Murphy-Bunting stands out because the weak hyperlink of the secondary. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore ought to reap the benefits of the chance to get all three of his high receiving weapons into that matchup at completely different instances, just so the Cowboys aren’t exhibiting the Bucs the identical look on an every-snap foundation. Prescott has by no means been vulnerable to locking in on one receiver on the exclusion of others anyway, so mixing and matching performs to his spread-it-around mentality. 

The Bucs getting stress up the center may short-circuit these plans, although, so Elliott and Pollard may play key roles within the passing sport. Tampa allowed a league-high 101 receptions to operating backs final season regardless of the presence of Lavonte David and Devin White. Taking a checkdown and making these guys miss to be able to acquire just a few additional yards shall be an essential part of staying forward of the chains and avoiding third-and-long conditions the place the Bucs’ greatest benefit turns into even greater. 

A sport plan that depends a lot on Prescott’s capability to push the ball down the sector is placing quite a bit on his shoulders, each actually and figuratively, however that is the energy of the staff anyway. And if Smith and Collins can handle to carry up towards Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, respectively, then Prescott can even have the chance to freelance and make performs along with his legs outdoors the pocket if Vea or Suh crashes up the center. 

Excited for the largest NFL schedule in historical past? Follow along on the CBS Sports app and get the latest insights from our team of NFL insiders, plus news from our team of experts, as well as data insights on every player. If you have already got the CBS Sports activities app, be sure that to favourite the your favourite staff so you do not miss a factor!

When the Buccaneers have the ball

The important thing query right here is whether or not new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s protection can get any semblance of stress on Tom Brady. If they cannot, it is possible going to be a protracted evening for the Dallas defensive backfield, which is prone to be extraordinarily overmatched towards Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown

Sadly for Dallas, the Bucs allowed stress on solely 25% of Brady’s dropbacks final season, per Tru Media, the fourth-lowest charge amongst certified quarterbacks. The Tampa offensive line is powerful throughout the board, but when there is a relative weak point, it’s most likely at middle and proper guard. Dallas has subsequent to nothing in the way in which of inside cross rush, although — particularly with Neville Gallimore out for the beginning of the season. 

With all that in thoughts, the probability of the Cowboys pushing Brady off his spot in the way in which that’s almost definitely to have an effect on his capability to finish throws down the sector appears extremely low. Dallas’ greatest shot at getting stress is prone to come from Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory on the sting, however a) Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith are fairly good in cross safety; and b) Brady responds much better to edge stress than comparable site visitors up the center, as a result of he would reasonably step up or by way of the pocket than have to flee to the surface. 

Meaning Quinn will possible must deliver an additional rusher on the blitz, with rookie Micah Parsons the almost definitely candidate for that function. Blitzing Brady is commonly a idiot’s errand, although, as a result of he sees that stuff coming and hits the recent route, which leads to a giant acquire. With the benefits his receivers are prone to have on the Dallas corners — particularly Godwin engaged on Jourdan Lewis within the slot, and Evans or Antonio Brown on Anthony Brown to the offense’s proper facet of the sector — that technique may pose loads of issues. (Godwin’s midweek quad injury that obtained him added to the damage report may change issues a bit, however in Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, and Jaelon Darden, the Bucs have loads of succesful receivers behind him.) Including Giovani Bernard because the third-down and two-minute again provides the Bucs one other weapon to assault the Dallas linebackers and safeties, most of whom can’t be counted on to comprise backs or tight ends in protection. 

With all these benefits within the passing sport, the Bucs could not even have to run the ball towards what final season was a really dangerous Cowboys run protection. (They completed twenty third in DVOA and thirtieth in Adjusted Line Yards, per Soccer Outsiders.) Nonetheless, the Bucs ought to have the ability to discover a diploma of success once they do select to maintain the ball on the bottom — particularly up the center, the place Dallas is prone to rely on a mixture of Brent Urban, Carlos Watkins, and rookies Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna for a lot of the snaps in Gallimore’s absence. Simply because the Bucs have a giant benefit with their defensive tackles towards the inside of the Dallas offensive line, additionally they have one with their inside linemen towards the Dallas defensive tackles.

Newest Odds:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Prediction: Buccaneers 33, Cowboys 23 | Cowboys at Buccaneers time, odds, decide, TV, the way to stream: Tom Brady and Tampa Bay start quest to repeat


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