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Bucs game day is approaching, and it’s time for the PewterReport.com staff to offer up its weekly game predictions. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction, too.
BUCCANEERS vs. COWBOYS
WHEN: Thursday, September 9, 2021 | WHERE: Raymond James Stadium | KICKOFF: 8:20 p.m. ET | TV: NBC
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Al Michaels |ANALYST: Chris Collingsworth | SIDELINE: Michelle Tafoya
RADIO: 98 ROCK 97.9 FM | PLAY-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff | ANALYST: Dave Moore | SIDELINE: T.J. Rives
SPANISH RADIO: 96.1 FM | PLAY-BY-PLAY: Carlos Bohorquez | ANALYST: Martin Gramatica
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Scott Reynolds: Bucs Win In Grand Fashion On Opening Night
The Buccaneers will start the season with a win over the visiting Cowboys on opening night. The victory extends the franchise’s record winning streak to nine. Tampa Bay’s offense picks up where it left off in 2020 – scoring 30 points or more yet again. That record will extend to eight games, dating back to last year. Quarterback Tom Brady will take advantage of Dallas’ suspect secondary, which is learning a new defense under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The former Atlanta head coach, Quinn has some knowledge defending Bruce Arians’ offense from the 2019 season, but was fired before the Bucs played the Falcons a year ago. It could be a big night for slot receiver Chris Godwin down the middle of the field.
Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Dallas’ offense has the potential to give Tampa Bay’s secondary problems. If QB Dak Prescott is fully healthy, he has the ability to light up the scoreboard through the air. Prescott has a trio of receivers to throw to in CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. It’s a group that rivals Tampa Bay’s receiving arsenal of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown.
Not only will the Bucs secondary have to be on point on Thursday night, but the Bucs’ front seven will have to have success in getting after Prescott. Dallas is without All-Pro guard Zack Martin, and tackles Tryon Smith and La’el Collins aren’t 100 percent. That should allow Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka the chance to get to Prescott over and over.
Jon Ledyard: If Bucs Don’t Beat Bucs, This Win Should Be Convincing
I think I’m one of the bigger believers in the Cowboys amongst the media field this year. I don’t think they’ll be a great team, but Dak Prescott is outstanding, their receivers are lights out and their offensive line is still a force. If the Dallas defense can figure out anything by midseason, they should win the NFC East.
Cowboys OL Zack Martin: Photo Credit -USA TODAY Sports
But this is a really tough matchup for the Cowboys in Week 1. There’s the obvious talent disparity, along with what should be an awesome atmosphere and a packed house at Raymond James Stadium. The loss of Zack Martin is a huge blow, and La’El Collins and Dak Prescott are just recently returning to action from significant injuries. Defensively the Cowboys are more talented than a year ago, but not by much, as they largely opted to run it back in the secondary.
If the Bucs don’t beat the Bucs, the Tampa Bay offense should have a huge night. The Cowboys defense was atrocious last season, and Dan Quinn’s typical coverage schemes (Cover 1/Cover 3) get regularly shredded by Tom Brady. Even if the Cowboys pull out some unexpected strategies on defense, the Bucs have more answers and cohesiveness than they had a year ago. On paper, it’s hard to find a matchup the Bucs shouldn’t clearly win outside of the Dallas receivers vs Tampa Bay’s secondary. If the Bucs defensive backs can hold serve, this should be a game Tampa runs away with in the second half.
I firmly believe that only two or three teams have a chance to beat the Bucs in a game where Tampa Bay plays mistake-free football. The Cowboys ain’t one of them. With a whole season (and a Super Bowl win) under his belt with the Bucs offense, Tom Brady is even more dangerous than a year ago when he threw for 40 touchdowns, which was second most in his career. Dallas’ defense allowed an ugly 29.6 points per game last season, and I don’t know how the Cowboys can stop Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin for four quarters.
Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Cowboys have some really great talent of their own on offense with Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. I like Dak Prescott as a quarterback as well, but I’m not too high on him coming off a season-ending injury last year and coming into this season with an injury to his throwing shoulder without playing in any preseason games. The Bucs defensive line will be sinking its teeth in against a Cowboys offensive line that could be down two starters. So I think Vita Vea, Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Co. pick up right where they left off in the Super Bowl. First they’ll shut down the run, then they won’t let Prescott into a rhythm.
One of the best things that could’ve happened to the Bucs in training camp was getting beaten badly by the Titans on the first day of their joint practices. They came out for day two ready to go and dominated the entire practice. I think this taught the Bucs that they can’t expect to just show up and win. The players have talked about it a bunch, so the Cowboys won’t be overlooked. With a full crowd raring to go following one more Super Bowl presentation, the Bucs kick off the season by taking it to the Cowboys with a double-digit win.
JC Allen: Bucs Score Fast And Often In Rout Of Cowboys
It’s no secret how good this Bucs offense has looked going back to the end of last season and throughout camp. With a full offseason under his belt, Tom Brady fully knows the playbook and his receivers. That spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for the rest of the league. Mike Evans is in the best shape of his life and coming off breaking a league record for consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (seven) and franchise records for touchdowns (13). Antonio Brown looks like the AB of old, and will be a formidable weapon as the team’s third wide receiver. While Chris Godwin enters a contact year after a banged up 2020 season which still saw him post his highest catch rating of his career. The Bucs’ trio of pass catchers, including tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard, should feast against a young and untested secondary.
Bucs RB Giovani Bernard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Unlike last year, the offense should be firing on all cylinders out of the gate to open the season. Quite frankly, this Dallas defense they’re going up against shouldn’t provide them any real resistance from doing whatever they’d like offensively. The Cowboys are not very stout at defensive tackle, and the combination of Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette should be able to take full advantage of that. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is going to have to be very creative with disguises and blitzes to try and limit this offense. When it comes to blitzing however, the Bucs’ offseason acquisition of Gio Bernard should be very impactful in that area. Not just with his strong pass protection but because he’s a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield.
On defense the Bucs will have their hands full with a dynamic passing attack and one of the best running backs in the league. However Tampa Bay’s defense has been the top unit against the run over the past two seasons. Limiting Ezekiel Elliott and negating play-action will help out the secondary a ton, and they will need all the help they can get. The Cowboys trio of wide receivers is perhaps the second best in the league behind the Bucs. Each one presents their own problem and will be an early test for the Bucs young corners. Carlton Davis III should be able to handle Amari Cooper, but it will be Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean who will need to show the consistency in coverage, with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, that plagued them last season. Dak prescott hasn’t played in almost a year and got no work in preseason games so it will be his first time going against live games reps against an opponent and that should play right into the Bucs hand. Potentially missing their best offensive line in right guard Zach Martin to the COVID list and right tackle La’el Collins with just a week of practice after a neck injury, should have the Bucs edge rushers licking their chops. Add in a raucous home crowd filling Raymond James and like their defense it could be a long night for Dak and the Dallas offense
Kasey Hudson: Are The Bucs The New “America’s Team” They Might Be Thursday Night
Finally, the 2021-2022 season is upon us and the reigning Super Bowl champions get another their first to prove whether or not their roster is just “hype.” Heading into Thursday night’s home opener against the Cowboys, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has a chance to go 6-0 vs America’s Team. While the Cowboys have been in some sort of rebuild phase over the last four seasons, they should not be completely underestimated. New additions like Keanu Neal and Malik Hooker are known to be quite disruptive on defense, so Tampa Bay’s offense will need to be more cognizant of the misreads and mental errors they were working through all of camp over the middle.
Bucs S Antoine Winfield, Jr. and OLB Shaquil Barrett – Photo by: USA Today
Cowboys right guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Thursday night’s game, which will give the Buccaneers defensive line a slight advantage. An active and excited Ndamukong Suh, now off the COVID-19 list, as well as a fully healthy Veta Vea will bring a lot of pressure to Dallas’ offensive line forcing quarterback Dak Prescott to be very mobile and quick-thinking fresh off of two injuries (ankle and shoulder). Having not played a snap since facing the New York Giants last October, the Bucs secondary is the last team Prescott should want to face.
Although safety Jordan Whitehead will not be playing, Antoine Winfield, Jr. will have all eyes on him. As a rookie Winfield was a significant playmaker, not only in the backfield but applying pressure to the quarterback, as he racked up three sacks as a rookie. With Winfield being more seasoned and confident, we should see another gear out of him this season. Lastly, we cannot forget about Tampa Bay’s dynamic duos on defense. Between edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, and inside linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David, one of those duos went off in every game last season. It may be the Pierre-Paul and Barrett show on Thursday.
Paul Atwal: Highly Efficient Bucs Offense Has Its Way With Cowboys Defense
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field on Thursday in their white jerseys and pewter pants – minus their Super Bowl LV patches – I expect them to look as sharp as they did on February 7, 2021. Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have the offensive personnel to trade points with almost anyone, but they have too much working against them in Week 1 hang with the defending champs. All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is out, while left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle La’El Collins return from season-ending injuries. This could force Prescott to get the ball out to his three-headed monster at receiver quicker than he’d like. Further, expect Ezekiel Elliot to have a day to forget, as the banged-up offensive line takes on the best run defense in football.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: USA Today
The Cowboys defense had a horrendous start to the 2020 season. The start to 2021 might be even worse. With former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn taking over Dallas’ defense, the Cowboys are positioned to transition from a team with the eighth-highest two-safety usage in 2020 to a team living predominately in the single-high safety world. Last season suggests that there are two problems with this: the Bucs offense was ridiculously efficient against single-high, and the Cowboys were one of the worst teams in the league at playing single-high safety coverages. I think we’ll see play action to set up crossing routes over the middle, perhaps with Chris Godwin cutting across the free safety while linebackers bite on the play fake. With the middle field safety unable to simultaneously help on both sides, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski should also have vertical opportunities in the seams.
The Bucs will looks crisp on opening night. Todd Bowles will have wrinkles for his front seven to get after Prescott. Tom Brady, now fluent in the language of Arians, will have the offense in favorable schematic matchups before every snap. With 66,000 fans eager to lose their voice and cannons firing all night, it’s all going to come together for the Buccaneers.