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DALLAS COWBOYS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (TB -8, 52) FREE PICK

September 7, 2021
Bucs vs Cowboys Free Pick

What a way to kick off the 2021 NFL season! The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Dallas Cowboys. Now, for those thinking about those same Cowboys that went 6-10 last year, you might want to re-adjust your thoughts. Remember, Dallas lost starting quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 5 last year. They also had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2020.

Prescott is back and Dallas hired former Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn to come in and overhaul the defense. Both Prescott and Quinn will have an impact not only in Week 1 for Dallas, but also for the entire 2021 season. 

There are 22 players and their Super Bowl winning head coach Bruce Arians who will make an impact in 2021 for the Bucs. Those 22 players are the entire starting lineups on both sides of the ball. All 11 offensive starter and all 11 defensive starters are back for Tampa Bay. That is the first time in the salary cap era that all 22 starters of a Lombardi Trophy winner returned to the same team the following season. 

Among those starters, of course, is 44-year-old quarterback Tom Brady. Even at 43 last season, Brady still put up outstanding numbers including 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns. He gets all of his weapons back including TE OJ Howard who returns from a torn Achilles tendon. The Bucs had the second-best passing offense (289.1 ypg) and the third-best scoring offense  (30.8) in football. 

Over their last seven games – three in the regular season and four in the playoffs – the Bucs offense scored 30 or more points in all of them. That includes games against Washington, which finished No. 2 in total defense last season, and playoff games against New Orleans, Green Bay, and Kansas City in the Super Bowl.

Dallas could be equally as good on offense with Prescott back running the show. In the Cowboys first five games last year before Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury, Dallas scored 31 or more points in four straight games. In a little less than five games, Prescott still managed to pass for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns. He will have leading receiver Amari Cooper (92-1114-5TDs) back as well as second-year WR CeeDee Lamb (74-935-5). 

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One thing that will play a role in Thursday night’s game will be the absence of All-Pro guard Zack Martin. He will be out due to COVID-19 protocols. The Cowboys offensive line was finally healthy and that was to play a role in an improved running game. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for the fewest yards (979) in his career last season. 

Bettors should remember that the Bucs defense is no slouch. Tampa Bay finished in the top ten (8th) in scoring defense last year and return stars like LB Devin White who led the team with 140 tackles and added nine sacks. DE Jason Pierre-Paul led the Bucs with 9.5 sacks and LB Shaq Barrett added 8.0. Tampa Bay also had the best defense in the league against the run. DT Ndamukong Suh (6.0 sacks) is back in the lineup after having spent time on the COVID-19 list.

What both teams do best though is score. With Prescott back, the Cowboys should be able to generate some points. We already know the Bucs can score and can do so against anyone. With Dallas getting used to a new scheme under Quinn, they may have some issues that Brady and the Bucs can exploit. 

In Tampa Bay’s last 26 conference games, the Over has hit in 20. Plus, the Over is 8-2 in the Bucs last ten games as a home favorite. The Over trends for Dallas as well. Even without Prescott in the final seven games last year, the Over went 5-2 for the Cowboys. The Over is also 4-0 in the last four games in which Dallas was an underdog. For icing on the cake, the Over is 4-1 in Tampa Bay’s last five season openers. 

BEST BET:  OVER 52

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