Dallas is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2020 season in which they went 6-10 and battled numerous injuries. Their defense was one of the worst in franchise history and Dak Prescott went down in Week 5 to a season-ending ankle injury.
The Bucs fared very well on the injury front and after a slower than anticipated start, really picked things up near the end of the season. They rode that momentum through the playoffs and a Super Bowl victory. The entire group is back to make another run at it this year.
What can we expect to see from these teams in Week 1? Here are three matchups that will decide the winner of the opening night game between Dallas and Tampa Bay.
3. Kellen Moore vs. Todd Bowles
The Dallas Cowboys’ offense has a lot of talent. Dak Prescott leads an impressive group of players that includes Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is loaded with talent and every single starter from last season’s Super Bowl-winning team is back for Todd Bowles. So, the Buccaneers will certainly have an advantage from a chemistry and cohesion standpoint.
Kellen Moore will be leading the Cowboys’ offense once again and his chess match against Bowles will be a determining factor in the game. Can Moore’s offense beat Bowles’ defense enough times to keep Dallas in the game? Prescott’s health will be a big factor in how the Cowboys’ offense looks under Moore.
2. Cowboys Secondary vs. Buccaneers Big 3
This is arguably the most lopsided matchup in this Week 1 game. The Dallas Cowboys’ secondary has a lot of question marks heading into the season. Unfortunately for them, they are going up against the best wide receiver group currently in the NFL and one of the best the league has ever seen.
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown would be the No. 1 receiver on a majority of teams in the NFL, yet they share the title with the Buccaneers. Trevon Diggs is going to have his hands full attempting to slow down whomever he is matched up with.
Diggs will have to play lights out because the Buccaneers are sure to pick on Anthony Brown across from him. Brown is the matchup to truly watch here, as Tampa Bay will look to exploit him and get Evans lined up across from him as often as possible.
The 6’5” Evans is a matchup nightmare for the 5’11 Brown and could very well determine this game if Tom Brady looks for him early and often.
1. Cowboys’ Offensive Line vs. Buccaneers Front Seven
One of the biggest areas of weakness for the Dallas Cowboys last season was the offensive line. They were unhealthy all season, as La’El Collins missed all season. Tyson Smith and Zack Martin also missed some time.
Coming into Week 1, Smith is the only one without issue. Collins is expected to play but has been dealing with a stinger. Martin is out because of landing on the COVID-19 list. That spells trouble for the Cowboys’ offense against this Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ front seven.
Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea are difficult enough to stop when at full strength. Having a backup offensive lineman trying to top them on the interior is a lot to ask for. Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett are an excellent pass-rushing duo who will get help from Joe Tryon-Shoyinka now as well.
Toss in one of the best linebacker duos in Lavonte David and Devin White and the Cowboys are in some trouble. If their offensive line cannot hold up in this game, it is going to be a very long night.