On Sunday Night Football in Week 1, the NFL has slated the Dallas Cowboys to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These two teams opened up last season against one another, but they won’t be as high-powered on offense as they were at that point in time due to injuries and offseason departures.
Tampa remains a top contender in the NFC, and while the Eagles are gaining ground on the Cowboys in the NFC East, Dallas should be considered one of the best teams in the conference. Let’s take a look at this potential Week 1 playoff preview and make some predictions as to what will happen on Sunday night.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys Betting Odds
The Bucs are currently 2.5 point favorites with the over/under set at 50.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys Prediction
The Tom Brady off-field situation is bizarre and, frankly, I have no idea how to handicap it. It’s not nearly as simple as just accounting for the Cowboys losing Tyron Smith or the Bucs losing Ryan Jensen. For the time being, I’m not letting it affect my predictions, because Brady has never been the type of player who would let off-field concerns affect his play.
WHAT A THROW. WHAT A CATCH
Tom Brady 🎯 Mike Evans 🤯
— PFF (@PFF) December 12, 2021
That said, I am on the Buccaneers in this game. Both teams have offensive lines dealing with significant free agency departures and injuries. However, I have more faith in Brady’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly and throw to better pass-catching weapons than Dallas has. I also believe Tampa has a significantly better front seven which can create issues for Dak Prescott behind their hobbled offensive line.
Given the injuries to both teams’ offensive lines and skill position groups, I like the under in this matchup. It opened at 51.5 points, and there has been some action to the under – I’d bet it to 50 points. My power ratings make the Bucs about 2-point road favorites, so don’t see much value in picking a side here. If I had to, I’d take the Bucs, but I don’t feel confident in recommending a bet on either of these teams right now.
My Prediction: Buccaneers win 23-20, Buccaneers cover, under 51.5 points
- Buccaneers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games against the Cowboys
- Buccaneers are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games in Week 1
- Cowboys are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 games as a home underdog
- Under is 5-1 in these teams’ last 6 meetings
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Tristan Wirfs (oblique) Q, WR Russell Gage (leg) Q, OT Robert Hainsey (ankle) Q, WR Chris Godwin (knee – ACL + MCL) Q, C Ryan Jensen (knee) IR, OG Aaron Stinnie (knee – ACL + MCL) IR
Dallas Cowboys: WR CeeDee Lamb (foot) Q, WR Noah Brown (toe) Q, S Jayron Kearse (back) Q, OT Tyler Smith (ankle) Q, CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring) Q, WR Michael Galleup (knee – ACL) O, OT Tyron Smith (knee) IR
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs the Dallas Cowboys below.
The Cowboys Offensive Line vs the Bucccaneers Defensive Front
This offseason has seen quite the transition for the Cowboys’ offensive line. Following the free agency departures of right tackle La’el Collins and left guard Connor McGovern, there were already significant concerns. Collins had been so consistent while his replacement, Terrance Steele, allowed the highest pressure rate per pass blocking snap (6.3%) on the team in 2021.
Then, tragedy struck when former All Pro left tackle Tyron Smith suffered a potentially season-ending torn hamstring. The Cowboys drafted Tyler Smith who I have high hopes for in the long term, but 40-year-old Jason Peters was signed to be their starting left tackle, and they’re in a bad place upfront.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 22, 2019
Tampa Bay can send waves of pass-rushers at Dak Prescott behind that shoddy offensive line. Shaquill Barrett is the top edge rusher, but youngsters Logan Hall and Joe Tyron-Shoyinka are expected to contribute. Vita Vea is a monster in the middle, and Akiem Hicks signed on as one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in football.
The Buccaneers Offensive Line vs the Cowboys Defensive Front
The Buccaneers have undergone a similar change upfront as their three interior offensive line starters from the Super Bowl win will not be in the lineup in Week 1. Ali Marpet retired, Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals, and Ryan Jensen suffered a potentially season-ending injury.
Tampa got incredibly fortunate to land Shaq Mason in a trade for a mere fifth-round pick, and it’s crazy to think about how bad of shape they would be without him. However, rookie Luke Goedeke is the projected starter at guard and Robert Hainsey, a guard who never played center in college, is the new starter at center.
Make that TWO sacks for Micah Parsonspic.twitter.com/vUdayEK95t
— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) December 12, 2021
We haven’t seen the Buccaneers sign a veteran band-aid player like the Cowboys did with Peters, which gives me some confidence that they feel okay about where they’re at. Dallas lost Randy Gregory over the offseason, one of their leading pass-rushers. Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence are elite players in their front seven, but the interior of the offensive line is unproven and I don’t have as much confidence in their defensive line as I do in Tampa’s.
CeeDee Lamb vs Buccaneers Cornerbacks
When these teams met in Week 1 last year, CeeDee Lamb came up with seven catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. However, Amari Cooper out-produced him with 13 catches for 139 yards and two scores. The Bucs had to make a choice as to which receiver to key their coverage onto. Not to mention, Cedrick Wilson and Michael Gallup were capable of making plays.
CeeDee Lamb with the acrobatic touchdown catch.pic.twitter.com/GOQq6pLtTR
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) November 22, 2020
Now, with Cooper and Wilson gone in the offseason and Gallup still recovering from his ACL injury, the Buccaneers can scheme aggressively to take Lamb out of the game without a huge concern over other pass-catchers beating them. Lamb will get the double-team treatment this season, and it will be fascinating to see how he responds as he’s still a young player on a clear upward trajectory.
Mike Evans vs Cowboys Cornerbacks
It’s become impressive how underrated Mike Evans is as he’s never finished with less than 1,000 yards in a season in his eight-year career. Evans led the NFL in contested catch rate and in separation rate in man coverage. In this game last year, however, he finished with just three catches for 24 yards. Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski took center stage, and it’s likely none will be on the field on Sunday night.
MIKE EVANS IS NOW YOUR BUCS ALL-TIME LEADING TOUCHDOWN SCORER pic.twitter.com/MGX5437HF7
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) November 23, 2021
Godwin’s timetable for his ACL recovery has progressed considerably, and there’s reportedly a chance he’s on the field on Sunday, which seemed impossible a few months ago. Tampa signed Julio Jones over the offseason, who will still be productive so long as he’s healthy, and Russell Gage is a solid depth piece.
However, there’s no question Evans will be the feature of the offensive game plan, and the Cowboys will be hard pressed to stop him. Trevon Diggs allowed a ton of yards last year despite his All Pro status, and Anthony Brown is very beatable on the other side. It will be fascinating to see how defensive coordinator Dan Quinn schemes the defense to slow Evans down.