The NFL kicks off its elongated regular season on Thursday when the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys. The good news is that Dak Prescott says he’s ready to play after not taking a snap during the preseason. And it’s a good thing those results don’t count because the Cowboys went 0-4 in their exhibition games. The Bucs are primed for a repeat with a number of players returning, including ageless Tom Brady, and they are a 7.5-point favorite on NFL betting line.
The Week 1 NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa at 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 9, and will be televised on NBC.
Cowboys at Buccaneers Odds (Week 1)
Dallas Cowboys +7.5 [BET NOW]
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -7.5 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 51.5 [BET NOW]
The Bucs begin their title defense against a desperate club and they are laying 7.5-points. It’s not a stretch to say they are better than last year’s 11-win Super Bowl champion squad with a bunch of starters back. The Bucs were 11-3 SU and 7-7 ATS as a favorite last season and they were a perfect 7-0 SU and 4-3 ATS when favored by at least a converted touchdown. There are a lot of moving parts with the Cowboys making it difficult to get a read on them. With Dak Prescott returning from a devastating ankle injury the offense is expected to be one of the best in the NFL. Prescott led the league in passing yards before his season-ending injury in Week 5. The offense was good but the defense struggled and the Boys were 2-3 SU and 0-5 ATS in the games Prescott started.
This is a big season for Dallas and Mike McCarthy. The Boys had a potent offense last season with Prescott at the helm averaging nearly 33 points in the first five games. Prescott’s injury derailed the rest of the season, but it was a porous defense that turned out to be the team’s biggest weakness. It didn’t help that the offense sputtered after Prescott went down scoring a total of 22 points in three games immediately following his departure. And Prescott’s absence also seemed to have an effect on Ezekiel Elliott, who had the worst season of his career.
With Prescott recovered from his ankle injury and over the arm woes that kept him out of the preseason, we should see a spark on that side of the ball. Elliott slimmed down and should be closer to the form that produced more than 1,300 rushing yards in each of the previous two campaigns. And Prescott has an outstanding trio of receivers in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.
The biggest question is can the Boys stop teams. Last season they yielded 386.4 yards and 29.6 points per game, both among the worst in the NFL. Dan Quinn takes over as the new coordinator with an impressive resume from his days running the Legion of Boom in Seattle. While the group should lower the significant numbers, the secondary will have a tough time stopping Tampa’s passing game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There’s a good chance the Bucs can be better than they were last season when they went 11-5 SU and 9-7 ATS. They return nearly the entire starting lineup on both sides of the football and Brady adjusted to a new team and system by tearing defenses apart over the second half and into the playoffs. The end result was a dominant Super Bowl win over Kansas City. The biggest issue is avoiding the hangover, however, I doubt Brady will let his mates rest on their title; all he has to do is show them his seven rings.
While Brady and the offense got most of the headlines last season, the defense was solid allowing an average of 327.1 yards. And the group stepped up in the Super Bowl holding the Chiefs without a touchdown while picking off two Patrick Mahomes’ passes. During the regular season they were the best against the run allowing less than 81 yards per game and keeping Elliott in check will put a lot of pressure on Dallas’ passing game.
Can Brady still perform at a high level now that he’s reached his mid-40s? I would say the answer is yes or he wouldn’t be back. It’s not like he needs to play the game since he’s accomplished just about everything, and as long as the first still burns he’s the best there is. The teams was built around him with a solid line, outstanding receivers and a strong run game, which is why the Bucs are the favorite to win the NFC crown.
Cowboys vs Buccaneers Predictions
Our picks: Dallas Cowboys +7.5 / OVER 51.5
With most of their regulars not playing during the preseason it’s hard to gauge the Cowboys. Prescott is the key and he says he’s ready, so I like the offense. The Boys should be better defensively, but the secondary is a question mark and getting to Brady is going to be tough. The smart play is taking the OVER and I like Dallas to hang around covering the spread.
Check out live NFL Week 1 odds.