It's that time of year once again.
The Sept. 9 season opener is finally here and the staff of DallasCowboys.com has analyzed this matchup since it popped up on the schedule in May.
So here we are. Just how can the Cowboys get this win against the defending champs?
The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their 'gut feeling' for this Week 1 matchup between the Bucs and Cowboys.
Kyle Youmans: It would be easy to look at the other sideline, full of Tampa Bay Buccaneers who just freshly raised a Super Bowl banner, and pick them to win. But I'm not here for 'easy.' Neither is this Cowboys team with their leader back, added confidence on defense, and a chip on their shoulder. On a night where the Buccaneers celebrate 2020, the Cowboys are eager to erase it. The offense returns to prominence and the defense gets just one more stop than the Bucs do, in a 34-28 Cowboys win.
Rob Phillips: First off, I believe these are both playoff teams come January, health willing, and I don't think the Cowboys' lack of offensive continuity in preseason will be as much of a factor Thursday as some suggest. In the full practices we saw toward the end of training camp, Dak Prescott looked ready to roll. But the Bucs' roster continuity from 2020, plus home-field advantage, does provide an edge on paper, at least. Unless something changes between now and kickoff, Zack Martin's expected absence in Week 1 because of COVID protocols is a big loss. The Cowboys like Connor McGovern's development, but it's no secret that the offensive line can reach a different level in the run and pass game with Martin in the lineup. The biggest key is whether the Bucs can get to Prescott without having to blitz, as they did against Patrick Mahomes all night long in Super Bowl LV. This will be a competitive, tight game in the second half because there's a lot of talent on both teams, but I'll take Tampa at home in this one.
David Helman: This isn't an indictment on how good the Cowboys can be in 2021, but I'm just not sure how you pick them to win this game. The strength of their roster, the offense, has hardly had a chance to practice and gel together since training camp started six weeks ago – and that was before we found out they had likely lost Zack Martin due to COVID-19. Similarly, I can't imagine a steeper test for Dan Quinn in his first game trying to fix this defense. I should also mention that Opening Night is typically a bad time for the visitors. Since 2004, when this tradition started, the defending Super Bowl champion is 13-3 on Thursday night. Yes, to be fair, a visiting Cowboys team provided one of those losses in 2012 against the Giants, but I don't see it happening this time. I think the Cowboys are going to look competitive but rusty in a game that Tampa Bay ultimately wins, something like 34-24.
Nick Eatman: We knew back in May when the NFL schedule-makers handed out the schedule, the Cowboys didn't exactly get any favors. Not complaining about it because we get to find out right away how things are going to be, but it sure wasn't the best draw the Cowboys could've been dealt. And Zack Martin going out only makes it worse. So what's the pick? I'd like sit here and say the Cowboys will prove us all wrong and overcome the odds. But I just don't see it – not right now. Nothing we saw in the preseason suggested to us the Cowboys are a better team in 2021. We're assuming they are because Dak is back and the offensive tackles have returned and there seems to be more playmakers on defense. But we haven't seen it on the field. I think the Cowboys CAN win if they find a way to run the ball on first down and move the chains to keep the Bucs from bringing the house. I think the tight ends have to step up and become consistent targets for Dak. And on defense, they just have to find a way to get the ball out and create short fields for the offense. But will all of that happen? Can't see it. And we haven't seen any signs of it yet. So because of that, and the fact the Bucs are the reigning champs that haven't shown us they're any worse, I'm going Tampa Bay, 27-21.
Mickey Spagnola: This is not a gut feeling. This comes from what I've witnessed over the past several weeks. Dak Prescott is ready to go. Ready to pick up where he left off last year. Now it may take a series, maybe two to get back in rhythm since he has not played in any sort of game since Oct. 11 of last year when he suffered his ankle injury. But there is nothing wrong with his mobility. And there certainly is nothing wrong with his arm/lat muscle in his right shoulder. Saw that in one of his last workouts throwing to Amari Cooper the end of training camp. Saw it again when he threw like 50 passes before the third preseason game at AT&T Stadium. Dak is throwing the ball with authority. He is throwing the ball with full velocity. He can make all the throws, and as deep as he needs to throw the ball no matter what you might have heard. Let's put it this way, if the Cowboys should lose the game, Dak's performance won't be the reason.