Dallas Cowboys +8 (8.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 52 (51.5)
The NFL season finally gets underway as the Superbowl champions host the opener and it’s no surprise at all to see “America’s Team” the chosen opponent for their first chance to be on TV for the season. The Superbowl Champ. has hosted the first game of the season since 2004 and in that time it’s been an impressive showing by the reigning “world champions” as the hosts have a 14-2 record (The centennial game between the Packers and Bears is gone from this stat.)
Does that mean a whole lot with regards to this game? Well, it makes sense that the best team the previous year would come back and do well in their first game and for this year the Buccs are remarkably returning all 22 of their offensive starters from that Superbowl win. A remarkable achievement and I’m sure that Mr. Brady had some kind of influence on players decisions to stay in Florida for another year.
My “professional” write-up is available on Sportsbookreview if you want to click and have a read on there. It will make me look better…
Tom Brady turned 44 at the start of August and somehow keeps evading the hands of father time. I’ll admit I thought he was going to struggle last year and Covid meant that he did at the start of the year but as always the team around him helped him immensely and he’s got the quality to make the best of his opportunities and fill another finger with a Superbowl ring. He’s already by far the most successful 40+ player and it looks like he’ll be extending that record. He and the team came on as the season progressed last year and there’s no reason they won’t continue that momentum after a full, proper, offseason compared to last years messed up preparation.
I’ll be honest, I’ve not much idea as to what happens at running back. Leonard Fournette became playoff Lenny in the post-season last year but Ronald Jones got more of the work in the regular season, then you’ve got the addition of Giovanni Bernard as the best 3rd down back they’ve had in a few years. I personally think Lenny will get the first chance although Buccs fans seem to think it will be RoJo so I’ll have to cede to their knowledge and avoid it all. Although Gio has been injured he seems to have made an impression on Brady over the summer and as a fantastic blocker and adept pass-catcher will get a good role through the season, at 4/1 I’ll admit I’m tempted to have a small punt on him anytime.
They have one of the best WR trios in the league in Evans, Godwin and Brown and against a defense as poor as the Cowboys were last year there’s no reason why they won’t feast on opening night. They may well all be top 20 talents and while Evans had a “poor year” by his records with just over 1,000 yards, he did finish with 13 TDs which was good for 4th in the league, and Godwin was injured for a lot of the year still put up 840 while AB filled in well as the WR3 with Scotty Miller had a couple of big catches for TDs as well.
There’s going to be a lot of hype on Gronk, but he may well have just been a blocker throughout the season had it not been for an early injury for OJ Howard. Howard is back and you’ve got to think he’ll be the main guy on the field on passing downs with Gronk used more as a blocker, a job he does brilliantly. Add in to that mix Cameron Brate as well and it’s another talented trio. When healthy Howard had more targets than the other two combined and he may well have similar to start the season.
Frankly though while Brady won yet another Superbowl, his first away from New England, the credit should go to the defense as they dominated that game and were the best through the season, especially against the run. They haven’t lost anyone on that side of the ball either and with them fully fit through camp there’s no reason why they won’t be elite on that side of the ball again this season.
Things haven’t been quite as smooth this summer for the Cowboys though. They welcomed the Hard Knocks cameras so we all got to see Dak Prescott’s ankle scar(s) where he revealed he actually had two surgeries to fix his broken ankle, and he lasted all of a few days in camp before a shoulder sprain severely limited him for the rest of it, and while Jerry Jones is saying he’ll be good to go, there’s got to be some rust there and despite being a mentally strong individual there must be some thought about that injury should he take off and scramble at all on Thursday night.
He was on target for roughly 75,000 yards last season before that injury and kept the team in games their defense was determined to lose for them. He showed he could carry the team and continue putting up points on offense, which he should be able to do with the offensive talent they’ve collected around him.
Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb and Michael Gallup are arguably the best trio in the league, up there with the guys on the other side of the field today, so you would expect a good QB to be able to find them and keep the team going in the right direction. It turns out that without Dak that’s not so easy for the others on the roster. Cooper has been limited with an ankle injury but put out some videos this week showing clean cuts so he looks like he’s ready to go, Ceedee gets FARRRR too much hype for catches in camp, but it’s the Cowboys and he’s obviously a very talented receiver and Gallup keeps trotting on as WR3. I’m still stung by years of Cooper having sub-par games them putting up 250 yards in a game and I struggle to trust him each week. It looks like Lamb may take over as the WR1 on this team sooner rather than later.
They will have Blake Jarwin back on the field for this one too after injury ended his season early on last year. He was the big hope for TE bets so I’m hoping he comes back good and takes the bulk of the workload there from Dalton Schultz.
It was a down year for Ezekiel Elliott which opened the door for Tony Pollard to get more action. Zeke didn’t even hit 1,000 yards and 4 ypc was good for 41st in the league, not a good look for one of the highest paid backs out there. However he looks in shape and should return focused with his bestest bud Dak back on the field. If he doesn’t then Pollard showed he could do an adequate job and looked more explosive than Zeke as the season went on. This is a rough start for them against the best run defense from last season.
The claimed last year that it was a tough defensive scheme to learn, and they weren’t good, but instead of continuing to learn they changed defensive coordinator and brought in Dan Quinn after his release as head coach of the Falcons. You have to think they’ll be better on that side of the ball but the personnel doesn’t look markedly improved despite using their first round pick on Micah Parsons at linebacker.
Who gets off to the flying start?
I am actually quite high on the Cowboys for this season, they’ve got an easy schedule and I still believe they’d have won the division last year had it not been for the Dak injury, but I think they’ll be struggling here. The offensive line isn’t what it used to be and pro-bowl guard Zack Martin missing the game due to Covid further weakens that line.
This is not the game you want a weak offensive line on. Dak returning from injury against a fantastic defense. It may get very messy for the Cowboys. The build-up to the season hasn’t gone well for them and while the talent is there, I don’t really trust Mike McCarthy as head coach either.
I do however trust Bruce Arians and Coach Brady under center. He had a rough start to last season the Covid affected summer but this year has been fine and they come into the game fully prepared.
Will they cover the 8 point spread? I don’t like taking over a touchdown on teams, especially in the first game of the season, but they will be there of thereabouts.
The 52 total is the third highest of the week, and has come down a touch, if I was pushed I’d be taking the under on it. I just don’t think the Cowboys come into this strong enough to put up the points on their side of the ball.
Any bets for the opener?
Of course I’m going to have a few personal bets on the game, it’s been a long wait and as I’ve got Friday off of work I’ll be up watching and it’s nice to have some skin in the game.
I will be having a nibble on Gio Bernard just for old times sake, he’s a talented little fella and deserves to go far with a decent team, so at 9/2 (Ladbrokes) I’ll have a little poke on him scoring while I’m wearing his Bengals jersey.
The Tight end lines have been a point of interest in groups I’m in, either Under on Gronk, or Over on Howard (19.5) with the expectation that Howard comes back as the main pass-catcher and Gronk returns to the largely blocking role he started last season with and I agree with the logic. I’ve had a little on Gronk u32.5 on Skybet, down at 30.5 in other places.
I think with the pressure Dak will be under and my personal worries over his shoulder o0.5 interceptions for him at 4/5 (365/Hills) is a decent price.
A little side-note
Betting lines and totals for this week won’t be easy. They’ve been out since May and have been polished nicely by general betting consensus. So try and take it easy this week.
EARLY look at Sunday games
There’s a few player props already popping up that I’ve had some bets on.
- Antonio Gibson o2.5 receptions – 11/10 (Redzone)
- Kyle Pitts you’ve got a choice of o40.5 yards, or o3.5 receptions at William Hill
- Kareem Hunt o16.5 rec. yards – Hills/Redzone/PP
I’m looking for a line on Javonte Williams for Denver, hoping it will be around 35 with them expecting him to be RB2.
There was a good line out on Marquez Callaway for the Saints as well 48.5, it’s popped quickly up to 52.5 but still not bad as the main target and deeper threat for Jameis and the Saints.
And I quite like Zack Moss o7.5 carries at most places, I missed out on 6.5 but I’ll take that one.
Schedule for the season.
Hopefully for this year I’ll continue as I have for the past 5 years on this site, providing my previews for all the games, however life is increasingly busy and there’s other obligations I’ve got for Sportsbookreview.com, Mrfixitstips.com and various others so they may be shorter than I usually clock in at. All depends on time.
There will be Draftkings contests each week to get people involved, we’ve just completed 7 drafts on Sleeper for the season, free, paid and bestball leagues are up and running and I’m looking forward to those.
Talking of bestball – @BestBallUKNFL – Tom will be providing lineups and advice each week over on my sister site – NFL-DFS.com
I will be a weekly guest on the Full10Yards betting pod each week as always.
And there’s something in the works that I’m looking forward too as well which will take a little more of my time, but should provide more interaction with people going forward.
It’s the start of a very busy few months for everyone who love the game over here and I can’t wait!