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TAMPA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 21: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field during a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Mike Ehrmann / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

After a long off-season the NFL finally returns this week with the Superbowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting ‘America’s team’ the Dallas Cowboys in a traditional Thursday night opener. Let's take a look at what NFL odds the top online sportsbooks are offering!

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thursday, September 09, 2021 - 08:20 PM EDT at Raymond James Stadium

Since 2004 the first game of the season has been hosted by the Superbowl champs against a random opponent on their schedule and it’s no surprise that the Cowboys were the team chosen to face them in the first game of the year.

In the 16 games involving the Superbowl champs. the record is strong to the hosting team with a 14-2 record. (The Packers vs. Bears opened the season in the centennial year in 2019)

So Who Has Prepared the Better for This Game?

After the Covid affected offseason in 2020 the teams would have been grateful for a generally uninterrupted summer this year and used that to their advantage. Remarkably the Buccs returned all of their offensive starters from their Superbowl winning year meaning that Tom Brady enters his 21st season at the age of 44. An incredible achievement as he somehow evades father time.

They had a full training camp which has gone smoothly and will have allowed Brady some more time with his players, and while their preseason games included losses to the Bengals and Titans, they finished with a win, and barely played their starters so that means very little.

On the other side of the field, it’s been a tougher preparation for the Cowboys as Dak Prescott returns from his ankle injury. He had a few snaps in training camp before developing a shoulder sprain which has kept him out of the majority of the rest of the build-up, so while he will be a full go for this game, lack of practise may hurt them.

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP

How Has the Betting Shaped Up?

This game opened many months ago with the Buccs as 6 points favorites according to the top bookmakers and the events of the summer have moved the line towards the Buccs with them now sitting just over a touchdown favorite. That movement is probably due to the injury to Dak and the likeliness of him not being completely ready for this game.

So How’s It Going to Go?

We know largely what to expect from the Buccaneers, they’re a well-coached and expertly led team who improved through the season last year; They’ve one of the best defenses in the league with the best run-stopping unit and pressure up front caused all types of issues for opposing lines as shown in the Superbowl where they had Mahomes scrambling on nearly every play and they’re rightfully favorites for the NFC this season. So the key to this game will be the Cowboys offensive line and the health of Dak Prescott, and frankly, I don’t think we can trust either of those things. The line isn’t what it used to be especially with Guard Zack Martin due to miss the game with Covid, against this Buccaneers defensive front will be facing a lot of pressure.

Dak Prescott hasn’t had the full off-season he’d have wanted after losing a lot of last year and having multiple surgeries on his ankle, and it’s all good having a few training sessions, but taking sacks, or scrambling in a real game is another thing entirely.

I do feel that Dak is very mentally strong so he’ll get through it with time, but this is a tough opener and I think that the lack of match practice for him could hamper the team for the first few weeks of the season.

The Cowboys defense was one of the worst in the league last year and they changed defensive coordinator again to help that area as well as using their first-round pick on Micah Parsons who’s looked good at linebacker. I don’t think it’s enough to be able to restrict the Buccs scoring.

NFL Pick: (visit our Sportsbook Review)

*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.