For the first time since the NFL Season kicked off on a Thursday night, Opening Night location is the same as the previous season’s Super Bowl location. Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida.
Not only were the Bucs the first time to play in a home Super Bowl. They were also the first team to win a home Super Bowl.
This is the first time the Bucs have ever featured in an NFL season opener. It was back in 2004 when the NFL decided that the current World Champions should kick-off the new season. This ruling came a year too late for the Bucs when they won their first Super Bowl in January 2003.
Despite being America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys have only ever featured in one NFL Season Opener. That was back in 2012 when they took down the then World Champions, the New York Giants. However, Cowboys fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for another winning start on opening night.
There’s good and bad news for the Cowboys.
Dak Prescott is back. After a gruesome ankle injury early in the 2021 Season, the Dallas QB takes his first snap, since the injury, against one of the top Defenses in the league. Time will tell if Prescott is fully healthy but he would have been hoping for an easier start to the season than a road trip against the defending Champions.
Ezekiel Elliot will also be hoping to re-discover his form of a couple of years ago after disappointing last season. Unfortunately for Dallas, All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin is expected to miss tonight’s game due to a positive COVID test. Not only a big blow for Elliot’s run game but also a huge concern for Dak as he tries to avoid the Bucs pass rush. Although the return from injury of Left Tackle Tyron Smith should help protect Prescott’s blind side.
If Dak can remain upright in the pocket then a talented trio of Wide Receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Cee Dee Lamb are set to test this young Bucs Secondary.
As for Defense, well in simple terms, the Cowboys just have to be significantly better than last season.
Dallas were at at sixes and sevens as they looked to change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 Defense with zero success. A switch back to 4-3 should bring some familiarity back to a beleaguered Defense.
The Cowboys will also be hoping that a 2021 Draft consisting of six Defensive players selected in the first four rounds will restrict the opposition’s chances of putting points on the board. Just don’t expect them to stifle Tampa’s much vaunted Offense tonight.
Not only are the Bucs, World Champions, they are practically the same team as last year with a couple of key additions. In an off-season like no other in Tampa, the Bucs managed to bring back all 22 starters from their Super Bowl triumph.
Tampa hit their stride after the bye-week last season. The Bucs went on a run of eight straight wins to lift the Vince Lombardi at Raymond James Stadium. With the advantage of a full off-season this year, expect Brady and the Offense to come out the traps firing on all cylinders. There should be no repeat of the early season splutters from last year.
With a top trio of Wide Receivers, a top trio of Tight Ends with the return of former first round draft pick OJ Howard after long term injury there is no shortage of targets for Brady. With pass-catching Running Back, veteran Giovanni Bernard added to the backfield to join Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, it’s an embarrassment of riches for the Bucs on Offense.
And if you can stop Tampa on Offense, you then have to try and beat their dominate Defense.
A run-stuffing Defensive front line, backed up by a brash, young, talented Secondary all patrolled by the best Linebacker duo in the league; Lavonte David and Devin White. This is a roster which is stacked at all positions.
As if the opposing Quarterback has enough to worry about trying to avoid Shaq Barret and Jason Pierre Paul, they will also have to to worry about Edge Rusher, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. The Bucs 2021 first round draft pick has had an outstanding pre-season.
Tampa’s roster is enough to give any opposing sides nightmares and why the Bucs are one of the favourites for this year’s Super Bowl. It’s also why Tampa are going to kick off the defence of their Championship with a W.
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