Date: Thursday, Sept. 9
Game Time: 7:20 CT
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
How will Dallas win?
After a season’s debacle for the offensive line last year, Dallas big guys up front are finally healthy again. Provided Dak Prescott is at least 80 percent of the player he was before his injury, Dallas should have a balanced attack with solid blocking for pro-bowl running back Ezekiel Elliot.
The offense will only go as far as the defense takes them, though. How improved is the defense? If they’ve gotten better as advertised, they’ll do a better job of getting to opposing quarterbacks. That was their biggest issue last season as a unit.
How will Tampa Bay win?
The run defense hasn’t changed for the defending champions. Tampa Bay has gotten everyone back from last season on that side of the ball, and now they have more chemistry. It’s frightening that this will be Dak Prescott’s first game back after his season-ending injury because Tampa’s pass rush is terrorizing, as we saw against Kansas City in the Super Bowl.
Not to mention the Buccaneers having the best rushing attack in the league, as well as…Tom Brady. Dallas better hope their defense indeed is improved.
Zeke is one of the best running backs in the league, but you wouldn’t have known that last season. While the offensive line is primarily to blame for that, and secondarily Prescott’s injury, Elliot also lacked on his end.
This season, Elliot is in better shape, seemingly quicker in training camp, and has a new determination to hold onto the ball, hopefully ending his fumbling woes. Today will be the ultimate test for him. If he has a productive day against the best competition he’ll face all season; the NFL will immediately be put on notice, reminding everyone of his dominance.
Our writer’s predictions:
Jonathan Goudeau: 35-20, Tampa Bay.
“I have no faith in Dallas’ defense or their ability to score in the red-zone.”
Addam M. Francisco: 28-20, Tampa Bay.
“I think Dallas’ defense is improved, and so is Zeke, but I think this test is too harsh for the Cowboys for week one.”
AJ Bussey: 35-17, Tampa Bay.
“I’m not sure how well Dak can actually play against a full-strength Buccs defense. Like Jonathan, I have no faith in Dallas’ defense and red-zone scoring.