TNF Preview: Bucs homecoming a bash too big for Dak’s return

The Dallas Cowboys have the daunting task of kicking off the season Thursday night when they face off with the Superbowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers down in Florida.

Rookie Micah Parsons has flashed a bunch in pre-season, and it will be exciting to see whether he can actually translate some of that busy nature into a full pace game with starting level opponents – but, it can’t be much worse than Jaylon Smith. Sorry, Jaylon. The rest of the defence also has some questions, when does it not?, but particularly upfront and at corner there will continue to be some uncertainty until someone steps up and really shows they can stand up against the might of a Bruce Arians offence.

Dak’s back

On the other side of the ball, there a far fewer questions – Dak Prescott is back, CeeDee Lamb is ready to explode in his sophomore year and many are expecting Zeke Elliot to return to his bone-crushing best. In pre-season videos he has looked leaner and sharper than we have come to see in recent years, and with a receiving core like the one he will be lining up alongside, the attention of the defence will surely be elsewhere for the first time in his professional career. The offensive line however is a bit of a worry. Guard Zach Martin is already out of the game with covid and his backup was deemed a close contact.

Tampa’s looking to run it back

Flip to their Florida opponents and you have a team who couldn’t have much more confidence heading into the season.

Coming off the back of a sensational Super Bowl victory, with the greatest quarterback of all time under centre – little could seemingly derail what has quickly become a freight train of an NFC contender. The roster from top to bottom is studded with gems of players in different stages of their primes and all at least with another deep play-off run in the locker. In the same way he managed in New England, the aura of Brady’s excellence and willingness to work has got this team full of big names playing their part in a harmony that many teams could only dream of. Come on! He has Antonio Brown playing fourth fiddle at receiver! Who ever thought that would happen?

Keep an eye out for Tristan Wirfs as well at right tackle as he faces up against one of the more potentially underrated pass-rushers in the league in DeMarcus Lawrence. (He isn’t paid like he is underrated, but it’s been so long since we saw the best of Lawrence that some may have forgotten just what the peak can be for that player.)

Defensively, the Bucs enter the season far more prepared than the Dallas set-up. Defensive tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh will destabilise and push around offensive lines all year, leaving one of the most talented line-backer groups to roam with almost total impunity from side line to side line. 

Predictions

As a Cowboys fan writing this preview, it’s hard with the rosters, coaching staff and performances last season to do anything other than select the Cowboys to win this game… Mike McCarthy has shown me and all other Cowboys fans all that we need, to believe in this team, and with money being put to good use all over the roster, this is finally the year that Americas Team can challenge once more.

Now onto the real prediction!

The Cowboys have a decent schedule once this Bucs game is out of the way, and can definitely improve on last year’s performance, but I don’t think they start off with anything other than a loss at Raymond James Stadium. Brady will throw for a bunch of yards and expect a double touchdown performance from Antonio Brown now that I have gone and described him as the fourth-choice receiver. 

Cowboys 10, Buccaneers 28

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