The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs. This week’s topic: Who Should Bucs Face In The 2021 Season Opener?
Scott Reynolds: Bring On The Giants In Week 1
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As is NFL tradition, the defending Super Bowl champions get to host the season opener at home on Thursday Night Football. Which opponent on Tampa Bay’s home schedule would make for the most interesting game? I’d love to see an AFC upstart like Buffalo or Miami open up against the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs. Or maybe even the reigning NFC South champion New Orleans Saints – perhaps with Jameis Winston under center?
Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: USA Today
But I’m going to look at this from a league perspective. The NFL wants ratings. So why not have the Bucs open up against the New York Giants with the Big Apple’s TV market tuning in? While Tampa Bay’s popularity has grown thanks to the arrival of quarterback Tom Brady and the Bucs winning the Super Bowl, they’re not quite a national team. Playing against Dallas – America’s team – comes to mind, but the Giants might be an even better draw for two reasons.
First, the G-Men haven’t had a winning season since 2016. Get them on national TV early before the losing starts again in New York. Second, the games between the Giants and Bucs have been highly competitive in recent years. Tampa Bay escaped New York on Monday Night Football last year with a 25-23 win. The Giants beat the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, 32-31, the year prior. They also won the previous year in New York, 38-35. In 2017, New York slipped past Tampa Bay at Ray-Jay, 25-23, which was the first of four consecutive meetings between the two teams – all close games. There will be a fifth meeting this year – might as well feature it in Week 1.
Mark Cook: Bring On The Reigning Champs
To be the best, you have to beat the best. The Buccaneers beat the Saints when it mattered most last season in the NFC Divisional Round, but suffered two embarrassed losses including a demoralizing 38-3 loss in front of a national Sunday Night Football audience at Raymond James Stadium. Following that game I, nor many others would have predicted that Tampa Bay would have ended the season as the world champs. But they did just that. Still, the pain of these two losses has to carry over somewhat as it cost them the NFC South title.
Saints QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: USA Today
Why not feature the the Bucs most bitter rivals in Week 1? Last year’s Sunday night game drew good ratings – well at least initially until it became a blowout. It had 18.9 million viewers watching before halftime and was easily the most viewed network program for the week. With the Bucs coming off a Super Bowl win, the popularity of Tom Brady along with a number of now more well-known players, this ought to be a ratings bonanza.
And lastly, the added intrigue of who succeeds Drew Brees under center and how that person performs has to be interesting even to just causal football fans. And if it is Jameis Winston, who spent five seasons in Tampa Bay before being dumped for Brady, look out TV rating books. With months to build it up as the former QB facing his old team who just happens to now have the greatest quarterback of all time under center. Heck, now even I’m fired up to get the season started. Bucs vs, Saints, Week 1, Thursday Night Football? LFG!!!
Jon Ledyard: Give Me The Shootout In Week 1
While some will be enamored with the idea of Bucs-Saints opening the 2021 season, I’d rather see the Saints figure out their starting quarterback and get rolling a little bit before that matchup is broadcast on national TV. Bucs-Bills, on the other hand, has all the makings of a high-octane, explosive battle between two of the league’s clear-cut top five teams. Not to mention, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think this could be a possible Super Bowl preview as well.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
On one sideline you have Josh Allen, who many expect to be an MVP candidate in his fourth season. Allen epitomizes the direction the league is heading at quarterback. He’s toolsy, athletic, competitive and not afraid to take chances in order to make a big play. Brady might not have the same arm or improvisational ability as Allen. The clash of styles and ages, though, will be must-see TV. Not to mention all the stars at wide receiver for both teams.
The Bills have a well-coached defense and are looking to get back to the top of the league in 2021. Tampa Bay needs to find consistency on that side of the ball. It does return the league’s top run defense thanks to a ferocious front seven. Not that it’ll matter, as this game will be won or lost through the air. There’s star power everywhere, great coaching and two of the best quarterbacks in the game. Tough to ask for much more to kick off the 2021 season.
Matt Matera: Football Fans Would Universally Love It If The Bucs Thrashed The Cowboys
Bucs fans love Tom Brady. Patriots fans love Tom Brady. Outside of those parts, some people don’t necessarily love the greatest of all time or the team he plays for. Why? Success breeds jealousy. With that said, the entire country outside of certain parts of Texas would be backing the Bucs if they were to take on the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener. Though the Cowboys are “America’s Team,” they are a polarizing team that many like to see lose. It’d be great to see the Bucs defend their Super Bowl championship against the Saints. If that’s not the case, the Cowboys bring eye balls to the screen and so do Brady and the Bucs.
Outside of the fan’s passion and/or disdain of both teams and players involved, there are actually good storylines involved. This could promote itself without the publicity of highly profiled names. You have the return of Dak Prescott, who fractured his ankle and was done for the season in week five. Before that, Prescott was putting up great numbers and leading the league at the time, throwing for 1,856 passing yards. This went alongside with nine passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. He then signed a six-year, $240 million deal in the offseason that many debated whether or not he should get. There will be many watching to see if he can bounce back from the injury.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
There’s great match-ups to tune into as well. Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean will face Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb for the first time in their career. The Bucs’ league leading run stopping defense with 80.6 yards per game has a chance to test their abilities against one of the top running backs in football with Ezekiel Elliott. On the flip side, Dallas’ defense got shredded all of last year. They allowed 386.4 yards per game and 29.6 points per game, both in the bottom half of the league. It’s a great opportunity for the Bucs to come out of the gate with a top notch performance and a lot of points on the board. Much to the enjoyment of a national audience.
Taylor Jenkins: It’s Got To Be Bucs vs. Saints
When the Bucs won their first Super Bowl following the 2002 season, they somehow started next season on the road. The matchup against the Eagles made sense coming off of their classic in the NFC Championship Game the year before, but I can’t imagine that the NFL would schedule the Bucs to start another post-Super Bowl season on the road.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
So with the Bucs’ season-opener hopefully happening at home, it takes away the possibility of one key game against the Patriots. After 20 years in New England, Tom Brady came to Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl in Year 1. His return to Foxborough to face Belichick and the Patriots is must-see TV. It’s a primetime game built for later in the year. The Bucs have a few teams with massive national appeal heading to Raymond James in 2021 in the Giants, Cowboys and Dolphins. They will also host one of the most stacked rosters in the AFC in the Bills. All of those games make for great Week 1 options but I don’t see any topping a divisional showdown against the Saints.
The Saints have run the NFC South in recent years, winning the division in four consecutive season. They’ve also dominated Bucs of late, going 15-5 against Tampa Bay in their 20 meetings prior to their NFC Divisional Round clash in the 2020 playoffs. With this history a heated rivalry has grown. Bucs’ fans don’t like the Saints, or their fans, and vice versa. It’s a major rivalry that carries divisional and potentially playoff implications. Add an angle that the Bucs’ former starting quarterback Jameis Winston may be under center for New Orleans and the fact that it would force the Saints to bear witness to Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl ceremony and the storyline just doesn’t get any better.