The 2021 National Football League kicks off Thursday night, August 9th, with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys. The two franchises meet up during the regular season for the first time since 2018.
Thursday Night Football kicks off at 8:20 p.m. EST inside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Tampa is an 8-point favorite as they set out to defend their title, and the total point over-under is slated at 51.5.
What to Know – Dallas Cowboys
Dallas was firing on all cylinders offensively to start last season before quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury, derailing the Cowboy’s season. Second-year head coach Mike McCarthy made some changes in the offseason that included bringing defensive coordinator Dan Quinn after being let go as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Prescott recovered and is expected to play in full Thursday night after sitting out all of the preseason. The 28-year old had thrown for 1,856 yards and tallied 12 total touchdowns in five starts before his injury.
Ezekiel Elliott did not have the season he hoped for in 2020. The running back rushed for 979 yards and six touchdowns in a down year for the three-time Pro Bowler. Elliott tied his career-high with six fumbles last season, a number he will attempt to cut down on this year.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper led the Cowboys in receiving, hauling in 92 receptions for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns. Opposite of Cooper is second-year wideout CeeDee Lamb, a breakout candidate in 2021 after posting 74 receptions for 935 yards and five touchdowns last year.
One of the questions for the Cowboys heading into the season will be the play of their defense. The unit was one of the worst in the league last season, allowing 29.7 points per game.
What to Know – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off the season looking to defend their Super Bowl title. 44-year old Tom Brady returns under center seeking his eighth Lombardi Trophy. The Bucs returns all 11 starters on offense and defense.
Brady continued to defy odds in 2020 as the ageless wonder completed 65.7 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns. The veteran signal-caller gets his cast of playmakers back, including tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Mike Evans.
The three top running backs return, highlighted by starting rusher Ronald Jones II. Jones averaged 5.1 per carry last season, tallying 978 yards with seven touchdowns. Leonard Fournette and offseason signee Giovanni Bernard will provide change of pace options for the Bucs’ offense.
In the passing game, Evans and Gronk are joined by wide receivers Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, and Antonio Brown. Godwin was the second leading receiver last year, snagging 65 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Pick is In
There will be points scored between these two high-powered offenses, but this is a high total for a Thursday night season opener. The Bucs’ defense does enough to keep the Cowboys’ offense at bay. We sweat this one out, but Tampa Bay wins it, 28-20.
Betting Pick: Under 51.5 Points