Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Buccaneers & Cowboys

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It was just one year ago that the Buccaneers and Cowboys met each other in Week 1 to kick off the 2021 NFL season.

What a difference a year makes.

The Cowboys finished the season at 12-5, claiming an NFC East crown before an early exit in the playoffs. As for the Bucs, they had their own tough playoff loss at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams.

There have been plenty of roster changes and storylines throughout the offseason, but here are five additional storylines for each team heading into Sunday's matchup at AT&T Stadium.

Buccaneers:

  • For as long as Tom Brady is a member of the Bucs they will always be in contention for a championship. But after an offseason of controversy where the future Hall of Famer retired and then unretired in February and missed 11 days of training camp, the impact of Brady's absence during that span with new receivers and new head coach could be something to keep your eye on this Sunday.
  • Todd Bowles, a former Cowboys defensive coordinator, took over the head coaching spot this offseason after Bruce Arians' retirement and subsequent move into the front office. Bowles of course spent four seasons in New York with the Jets and won just 26 of his 67 games during that time. The defensive-mind guru is a change of pace from the high-energy style that Arians brought, but he still takes over a wildly talented crew.
  • Much like the Cowboys, the Bucs have battled through their own offensive line issues as they prepared to enter the season. They lost center Ryan Jensen to a torn ACL to begin training camp, with Ali Marpet opting for retirement and Alex Cappa leaving in free agency to Cincinnati. Keeping Tom Brady upright is imperative, but the Dallas front seven could present series issues against a beaten-up Tampa offensive line.
  • There will be no safety blanket for Brady this season with Rob Gronkowski retiring, but he does get Chris Godwin back off ACL surgery and perhaps a rejuvenated Julio Jones alongside Mike Evans and Russell Gage. The Cowboys boasted maybe their best secondary unit in quite some time, making this one of the matchups to watch.
  • Finally, Brady is 6-0 in his career against the Cowboys including last year's opener in Tampa where the Bucs held on to take care of Dallas 31-29. For the Cowboys, they have not beaten the Bucs since Week 16 of the 2018 season.

Cowboys:

  • The Cowboys are prepared to go with rookie first rounder Tyler Smith at the left tackle position now that Tyron Smith is set to miss a big chunk of the season with injury. Dallas did sign former Eagles' tackle Jason Peters on Monday to help fill out the depth of the offensive line and as a mentor to the younger Smith. Tampa will bring plenty of firepower in their front seven, presenting quite the challenge for a rookie in his first NFL start.
  • It's a new-look receiving corps that Dak Prescott will be presented with on Sunday, though he will still have CeeDee Lamb at his disposal. After an offseason of turnover at the keystone, the Cowboys are set to roll into the season with a group of young and talented receivers like Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, and Jalen Tolbert. However, most all are inexperienced and remains to be seen how they will react in game situation after a strong camp while they wait for Michael Gallup and James Washington to return from injury.
  • If there is one unit that does not have many questions marks surrounding it for the Cowboys, it would be the defensive side of the ball. In last year's matchup against the Bucs, the defense forced four turnovers including two interceptions by Brady. With Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons holding another full season under their belt and others stepping up during the preseason the Cowboys could lean on their defense most of the way.
  • After playing it out during the course of training camp and the preseason, the Cowboys finally settled on a kicker by bringing back Brett Maher for the season. In this matchup last year, Greg Zuerlein missed two field goal attempts and one of his extra-point attempts in what was just a two-point loss for Dallas. The Cowboys are hoping Maher can bring a little bit more stability in clutch situations.
  • What will we see from Dak? He was absolutely fantastic last season coming back from ankle surgery by setting the franchise record with 37 touchdown passes last season. This time around though he will have his work cut out for him with younger guys at key spots on the offensive line and at receiver. He passed for over 400 yards and three scores in Tampa in 2021, with CeeDee Lamb accounting for over 100 of those yards and one touchdown.

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