The Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off Week 1 of Sunday Night Football to open the regular season. The two NFC powers opened the season last year with the Buccaneers pulling out a thrilling 31-29 victory in Tampa.
Sunday’s kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. EST inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Tampa Bay comes to Texas as a 2.5-point favorite, and the over/under total is 50.5 points.
What to Know – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady retired and unretired in the offseason, creating a lot of noise in Tampa’s camp as the seven-time Super Bowl champion returned under center. Todd Bowles takes over the head coaching duties for Bruce Arians after the Bucs finished 13-4 last season, losing 30-27 to the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
With Brady back calling plays, the Tampa offense should again be one of the top units in the NFC. Brady put up eye-opening numbers at the age of 44, throwing for 5,316 yards, 43 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. At 45, Brady remains one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Leonard Fournette remains the lead back in the backfield in 2022.
‘Touchdown Lenny’ rushed for 812 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and found the endzone eight times last year. Backups Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard are also back, along with rookie Rachaad White.
Brady has a cast of talented pass-catchers to throw to, led by his main target Mike Evans. Evans hauled in over 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns to lead the Buccaneers’ wideouts. Chris Godwin, veteran Julio Jones, and Russell Gage add additional pass-catching options for Brady and Tampa Bay.
With a bulk of the starters back from last year’s defensive unit, Tampa Bay should be difficult to score on after surrendering 331.5 yards and 20.8 points per game last season.
What to Know – Dallas Cowboys
Dallas won their division before falling to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round, 23-17. Mike McCarthy enters year three as the head coach of the Cowboys; he is 18-15 over the first two years at the helm.
Dak Prescott remains the Cowboys’ starter at quarterback and will look to build on a solid 2021 season. Prescott completed 68.8% of his passes for 4,449 yards, 37 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. The 28-year-old added 146 yards on the ground and one score.
The starting role at running back remains in Ezekiel Elliott’s hands, but the seat is hot for three-time Pro Bowler. Elliott rushed for 1,002 yards and ten touchdowns last season, but backup Tony Pollard looked like the better back. Pollard averaged 5.5 yards per carry for 719 yards.
Amari Cooper is gone at wide receiver, but the Cowboys bring back playmaker CeeDee Lamb and Michal Gallup. Gallup won’t see action in the Week 1 contest, so rookie Jalen Tolbert and tight end Dalton Schultz will see targets opposite of Lamb.
The defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys allowed 21.1 points and 351.0 yards per game last season.
The Pick is In
Dallas will have the home-field advantage, but Tampa Bay has the more complete team. The Cowboys’ defense still has work to do, and we don’t trust the Dallas rush attack at this point. We like the Buccaneers to win in a close, entertaining opener.
The Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2.5