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Matchups Week 1: Cowboys vs. Buccaneers

Tom Brady against Indianapolis preseason
Aug 27, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Spread: Dallas +2.5

Game Total: 51

Team Totals: Cowboys (24.25), Buccaneers (26.75)

Weather: Dome.

The Line Report

  • The consensus line for this contest is currently Cowboys +2.5.
  • This line opened as Cowboys +2.
  • This line has fluctuated between Bucs +.5 to Bucs +2.5. However, this line has spent most of its time between Bucs +1.5 and Bucs +2.5.
  • DraftKings Pick’Em has the Cowboys +1.5.
  • Circa Sports Millions Pro Football Contest has the Cowboys +2.5.
  • The current consensus for this total is 51 points, with a few 50.5 options available.
  • This total opened between 51.5 and 52.5 points. There has been considerable fluctuation on this total this summer, with a peak of 53 down to a floor of 49.5.

Notable Injuries 

Cowboys: LT Tyron Smith (IR), FB Ryan Nall (IR), WR Michael Gallup (Out), WR James Washington (Out), QB Dak Prescott (Questionable).

Buccaneers: WR Chris Godwin (Questionable/considered a game-time decision), WR Russell Gage (Questionable), S Mike Edwards (Questionable).

The Cowboys Offense vs. the Buccaneers Defense

The state of the Cowboys offensive line is concerning. They lost two starters in free agency this offseason in OG Connor Williams and RT La’el Collins. Now LT Tyron Smith is on IR, leaving Dallas with three new faces on their offensive line. That will force No. 24 overall pick Tyler Smith to play offensive tackle sooner than Dallas had hoped. Tampa Bay has a fringe top-ten front four, and new head coach Todd Bowles is known for bringing the heat as a play caller. In last season’s opening day matchup between these two teams, this particular matchup was fairly even. This Sunday night, the Buccaneers will have an advantage in the trenches.

I have never been more impressed with Dak Prescott than I was during last year’s opening night matchup against the Buccaneers. Dak went 42-of-58 for 403 yards and 3 scores while consistently managing a muddy pocket against the defending champs. He did that coming off his gruesome ankle injury that cut his 2020 campaign short. Not only is Dak’s offensive line in a weaker position than they were this time last season, but so is his wide receiver group. I haven’t seen anything concerning on Prescott’s appearance on the injury report with ankle soreness. Dak is expected to play.

Notes and Observations

  • The Cowboys were 13-4 against the spread in 2021.
  • The Cowboys were 8-9 on overs in 2021.
  • Dallas was 3-4 against playoff teams last season. Two of those wins came against the Eagles, which includes a Week 18 matchup where Philadelphia rested their starters while Dallas didn’t.
  • It’s worth noting that the Cowboys went 3-0 against near playoff teams in the Chargers, Vikings, and Saints last season.
  • Per The Edge, Dak Prescott had the highest rating under pressure among quarterbacks that played at least 16 games last season. Dak was only behind Patrick Mahomes in EPA while under pressure.
  • Tampa Bay allowed the 11th-most yards to wide receivers and the 18th-most to tight ends last season.
  • Tampa Bay allowed the seventh-most PPR points to slot receivers in 2021.
  • The Buccaneers allowed the fewest rushing yards, but the fifth-most receiving yards to running backs last season.
  • Given the Cowboys depleted wide receiver group, there have been rumors that Tony Pollard will see some action in the slot. 

The Buccaneers Offense vs. Cowboys Defense

Tampa Bay’s offensive line remains strong at tackle, but they’ll enter the season with three new starters in the interior. One of those is an upgrade in RG Shaq Mason, while left guard and center represent significant drop offs from last season. The Cowboys move around their two best pass rushers in Demarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons. Dallas doesn’t have a direct interior line play advantage in this contest, but we can reasonably expect Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to use Lawrence and Parsons to test the Bucs new interior.

Even if Chris Godwin is able to suit up for the opener, we should expect him to be eased into the offense. It would be no surprise if Godwin was held out in Dallas, as he recovers from his season-ending knee injury from late last year. New acquisitions Russell Gage (who is also on the injury report) and Julio Jones bolster a group of pass catchers that is down Rob Gronkowski (retirement) and Antonio Brown (no comment). Even with the new additions, Tampa Bay will be entering the opener with a less complete group of pass catchers than they did against Dallas last year.

Notes and Observations

  • The Buccaneers were 9-8 against the spread in 2021.
  • The Buccaneers were 9-8 on overs in 2021.
  • Tampa Bay went 4-1 against playoff teams in 2021.
  • Per The Edge, Dallas allowed the 12th-fewest rushing yards, the tenth-fewest receiving yards, and the 15th-fewest receptions to opposing running backs last season.
  • Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette was 19th among running backs in rushing yards (812), fourth in receiving yards (454), and third in receptions (69) last season.
  • Dallas allowed the seventh-most receiving yards, but ninth-fewest receptions to wide receivers last season.
  • The Cowboys surrendered the ninth-most PPR points to perimeter receivers, but the sixth-fewest to slot receivers.
  • Dallas yielded the 13th-most receiving yards to tight ends last season.

This is What You’re Betting On in Cowboys vs. Buccaneers

A bet on the Cowboys is a bet on a home underdog whose roster has lost several impact players since this time last year. The Cowboys offensive line, wide receiver group, and front four have each lost significant talent this offseason. There is more pressure on Dak Prescott to carry this team than there was last year. A bet on Dallas is also a bet on the Cowboys being able to maintain their defensive ascension from last season. Dallas probably should have won last year’s primetime opener in Tampa Bay, but the Cowboys are a different roster this season.

A bet on the Buccaneers is a bet on the most accomplished quarterback in history in Tom Brady. Doubting Brady has not been a profitable endeavor to this point, but he is in very uncharted waters as a 45-year-old NFL quarterback. That doesn’t even mention Brady’s unconventional August. Brady is a traditional pocket passer that will enter the season with big question marks at left guard and center. That’s a situation Brady hasn’t had to deal with very often in his professional career, bordering on never.

Brady will be without long-term running mate Rob Gronkowski, while Chris Godwin will likely be limited if he suits up at all. The Buccaneers’ defense has retained most of their significant talent from their championship run two years ago. However, Todd Bowles is now the head coach instead of the defensive coordinator. A bet on the Bucs is a bet on Tampa Bay being able to maintain their level of success despite these roster and coaching staff changes.

Both of these teams are significantly different than they were on opening night last season. There are a number of ways that both of these offenses could struggle in this matchup. If public perception is veering towards the over in this contest, I will strongly consider taking the under if I can get it at a good number.

Winner/ Confidence Pool: This will roughly be a coinflip game in winner pools, with Tampa Bay being the more popular option. Contests with sub-3-point spreads should generally be ranked towards the bottom of your weekly confidence pool. However, I expect that I’ll have Tampa Bay above similar options like the Vikings vs. Packers game.

Spread Pool: Tampa Bay will make my pool of options in tournaments.

Survivor: This contest should be avoided for survivor purposes.