FRISCO, Texas – The 2021 NFL season will be ushered in by the Dallas Cowboys.
While the full season's schedule won't be unveiled until Wednesday night, the NFL announced its Week 1 games this morning, including an opening night tilt between the Cowboys and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, Sept. 9.
The NFL Kickoff Game has been in place since 2002, with the defending Super Bowl champions typically serving as the host team. Following their victory in Super Bowl LV in February, the Buccaneers were the logical choice to kick off this season.
The Cowboys, who also appeared in the NFL Kickoff Game in 2012, make for an interesting opponent. While the league often selects one of last season's playoff participants to open the season, there's no denying the drawing power of the return of Dak Prescott and a much healthier Dallas roster.
Prescott suffered a compound ankle fracture and dislocation in Week 5 last fall, sidelining him for the rest of the season. That injury, combined with the loss of fellow stalwarts like Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, factored heavily in the Cowboys slumping to a 6-10 record. The season opener figures as the likely first game back for all three.
The national stage will also offer a heck of a first test for new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and a Dallas defense that has been revamped in the last few months. The Cowboys finished 28th in scoring defense in 2020, and they'll open 2021 by facing off against Tom Brady and an explosive Tampa Bay offense.
Speaking of Brady, the appeal of Prescott vs. Brady – the Cowboys' $160 million man against the seven-time Super Bowl champion – is undeniable. That said, the Cowboys' history against Brady isn't exactly inspiring.
This will be Brady's first game against Dallas as a Buccaneer, but he does hold a 5-0 record against the Cowboys dating to his lengthy stint with the New England Patriots. The most recent of those wins came in 2019, when he outlasted Prescott and the Cowboys, 13-9, on a rainy night at Gillette Stadium.
Ultimately, it's just the first game of 17, the rest of which will be revealed on Wednesday night. But as far as season openers go, it's an awfully intriguing one – and an early chance for the Cowboys to test themselves against the NFL's elite.