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Listening in on the enemy: What the Bucs are talking about ahead of the Cowboys game

The defending Super Bowl champs open up the season against the once mighty Dallas Cowboys.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As we await the season opener against the Buccaneers we take a look at what the Bucs are saying about themselves (a lot) and their next opponent (a little). Four things seem to be on everybody’s mind in Tampa Bay:

  • Tom terrific
  • A blowout win in the season opener
  • Dak Prescott
  • The Cowboys wide receivers

What the Bucs are saying about themselves

"One ugly streak down, one to go." - Ira Kaufman, JoeBucsFan.com
Axl Rose said: "It's been 14 years of silence, it's been, it's been fourteen years of pain." The Bucs share your pain, Axl.

Yes, a franchise that once owned the NFC South is seeking its first division crown since 2007.

Barring a slew of injuries that decimates the depth chart, Tampa Bay will have no credible excuses for coming up short in the division race for a 14th consecutive year.

It’s been a loooong time since the Bucs won the NFC South

Defending Champs 11-4-1 Against The Spread - JoeBucsFan.com
Overconfidence much? Bucs fan wonders aloud whether the Bucs will pull their starters once they have a significant lead against the Cowboys.

Joe wonders how Bucco Bruce Arians will handle his personnel if the Bucs have a significant lead late in the game. With a 17-game schedule, those are the opportunities to rest key players.

If the Bucs yank Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David on a final Dallas drive, in favor of Anthony Nelson, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Kevin Minter — something that wouldn’t have happened last year — then Joe easily could see a late touchdown tightening up the score.

Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis declares himself to be "second to none" - ProFootballTalk
Carlton Davis, who has made zero Pro Bowls and has zero All-Pro honors to his name in three years in the NFL, has a message for you.

“If you take the numbers, if you take the stats, take the film?” Davis said. “I’m second to none. Second to none.”

Tom Brady shares why he should be more mobile in 2021 - Bryan DeArdo, CBSSports.com
On top of everything else, Brady is now a rushing threat after recovering from an MCL tear, and this report has him breaking the "100-yard rushing barrier".

He's broken the 100-yard rushing barrier three times, including his career-high 110-yard season way back in 2002. In 2011, when he ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns.

Three times is pretty impressive for a quarterback. Even Lamar Jackson only has eight games with more than 100 rushing yards.

Wait, what?

Brady’s “rushing barrier” is 100 yards per year?

Get outta here, man.

What the Bucs are saying about the Cowboys

Dak Prescott's Return Promises Prolific Cowboys Offense - Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com
Expect a shootout!

NFL schedule-makers sent the Cowboys to Tampa for the NFL's Week One showcase not only because Dallas is a marquee franchise but because it has the offensive firepower to match the Buccaneers in what could be an explosive start to the season. With Dak Prescott back under center and distributing the ball to the likes of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas could turn Thursday's game into a shootout with Brady and his corps of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette and so on.

We don't often feature the QB in this section of the Scouting Report. However, in this case the impact that Prescott is going to have on Thursday's game and the Cowboys' entire season can't be overstated. The team's two backup passers to start the season are Cooper Rush, who has three career regular-season throws, and recent waiver-wire claim Will Grier. Before he went down with his ankle injury in Week Five last year, Prescott was averaging 371.2 passing yards per game, which had him on a pace to shatter the NFL's single-season record in that category. It's true that Dallas only won two of the five games he started, but its offense averaged nearly 36 points per game in that span. Those numbers dropped off precipitously over the rest of the season. Prescott is a good runner, and he already has 24 career rushing touchdowns, but he mostly uses his powerful legs and good vision to extend plays and pick up big gains downfield. He's tough, can make all the throws and has proven to be a very good leader. The Cowboys are undoubtedly a huge measure better with him at the helm of the offense,

Which trio of receivers has the edge? Cowboys’ or Bucs’? - Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times
Dallas’ Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are as good as any three pass catchers in the NFL, Stroud writes and quotes Bruce Arians.

“It’s huge. They’re loaded,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians saids. “They all do different things. I think that threesome might be the best. I’ll argue that our guys might be, too. It’s a hell of a challenge when you’ve got that many guys. ...

“Gallup goes deep, Cooper is Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb is a great runner after the catch. They all individually do different things.”

Scouting, Ranking Cowboys Receivers - JoeBucsFan.com
Bucs wideout Mike Evans holds the Cowboys receivers in high regard.

“They’re all great receivers. They can run all the routes, you know, all of them. CeeDee’s young in the game but he’s a really polished receiver already. Amari, his routes are unbelievable. Michael Gallup can take the top off,” Evans said. “They’re a really good bunch. I think they’re top-3, top-4 in the league, if I had to choose out of, you know, trios.”

Yarcho’s Pick Six: 2021 Bucs season preview - James Yarcho, Bucs Nation
The season opener is listed as one of the six toughest games on the Bucs schedule this season, and will prime time be an issue again for the Bucs this year?

Opening week jitters are certainly a thing. The Cowboys will be amped to have quarterback Dak Prescott back and the Bucs will be feeling the pressure after the banner is raised. Jerry Jones has also been giving his team some bulletin board material calling his team “David” getting ready to face off against “Goliath.” And I don’t want to harp on this too much, but the Bucs weren’t exactly nails in prime time last regular season.

Now, I know what you’re saying - “James, their prime time games aren’t really against a lot of difficult teams.” Yeah, I know, but neither was last year’s slate. They barely beat the Giants, lost to the Bears, lost to the Saints, lost to the Rams. Luckily they got it together for the playoffs, but Bucs fans had an overwhelming sense of dread every time Tampa Bay was on Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night. This year? Not so much.

What others are saying about the Bucs/Cowboys

2021 NFL triplets rankings: Cowboys rank ahead of Bucs - Nick Shook, NFL.com
Shook ranks all 32 teams' triplets (QB-RB-WR trio) and has the Cowboys ranked at No. 3 ahead of the Bucs at No. 5.

Like the Cowboys' season outlook, this ranking is highly dependent on the availability of Prescott, who was performing at a historic clip (371.2 passing yards per game, the highest average in a single season in NFL history) before he was lost to a gruesome ankle injury last October. Prescott's output came out of necessity, with the Cowboys forced to throw to make up for a defense that couldn't stop a nosebleed. New DC Dan Quinn should set things right, but the Dallas triplets should still roll, especially with the rookie-year emergence of Lamb, who is poised to cement his place as the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver. Elliott, meanwhile, showed up to camp in excellent shape, as he's looking to improve on a disappointing season. If it all comes together, this ranking will prove accurate. And if it doesn't, we'd still take Prescott No. 4.

The rankings also have Washington at No. 19, the Giants at No. 20, and the Eagles at No. 30.

NFL Power Rankings, Week 1: Buccaneers begin 2021 season on top - Dan Hanzus, NFL.com

And if you habitually take offense when the Cowboys are shown to be good at anything (“Cowboys triplets better than Bucs triplets? CMON MAN!”) these power rankings should be right up you alley. Bucs rank #1, Cowboys rank # 19. But perhaps even 19th is too high? (“WHAAAAT, 19th? CMON, MAN!”)

Bucs: We got out of the business of predicting a #GradualDecline for Tom Brady years ago, and since standard logic doesn't hold with the man, the only worthwhile thing to do at this point is sit back and see how far the G.O.A.T. can take this thing. He enters his 22nd season at the age of 44, and from a support standpoint, you might have to go back to the 18-1 Patriots of 2007 to find a similarly impressive support system around him. If you put another NFC team ahead of the defending champs at this moment, you're simply trying too hard.

Cowboys: Slowing down the Tom Brady-led Bucs attack will be a huge challenge, but Cowboys fans should be excited to see first-round pick Micah Parsons in a showcase game in front of Al, Cris, Michele and the world. Summer reports on Parsons have been positively glowing, and a big performance in the opener will get his Defensive Rookie of the Year candidacy off to a blazing start. Dallas desperately needs to develop a new star on that side of the ball. Parsons has all the tools to make it happen.

Tom Brady: Why the NFL shouldn’t allow players to wear almost any number - Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times

Tom Terrific isn’t a fan of switching jersey numbers.

“The number rule is crazy,” Brady said. “Literally, guys changed their numbers today. I’m playing two guys who had different numbers in the preseason. So, yeah you’ve got to watch film and know who you’re studying but so do running backs. They’ve got to know who to block. So does the offensive line. So does the receivers who are adjusting their routes based on blitzes.

“So one guys has got a 6, one guy has 11, one guy has got a 9. And they change every play when you break your routes and get to your spot. It’s going to be a very challenging thing. It’s a good advantage for the defense, which that’s what it is.

“It would be like saying, ‘What if I let the offensive linemen wear 82 and No. 9?’ Brady continued. “They wouldn’t know who was eligible. Well that’s not fair. You’ll get your tail kicked. At least identify who the D-line, the linebackers and the safeties are. You’re going to have a lot of matchups where guys are blocking the wrong guys. I don’t know why that should be.”

What the Bucs are saying in the media

Members of the Buccaneers spoke about the Cowboys and their preparations for facing them during their media rounds this week. Here are some highlights that include Tom Brady, Bruce Arians, and Lavonte David.