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Cowboys vs. Buccaneers: Writer predictions for season opening rematch

Can the Cowboys start their season off with a win?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

NFL football is officially back, and the Cowboys will kick their season off at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a rematch of last year’s thrilling Week 1 matchup. This time, though, the Cowboys are hoping to end up on the right side of the final score after going through several big changes, most notably on offense, over this past offseason.

There’s a feeling of Super Bowl or bust for head coach Mike McCarthy, who enters his third season in Dallas with a record of 18-15 with the Cowboys and, of course, 0-1 in the postseason. It’s worth noting that 45 of the 56 Super Bowl winners throughout history all won their Week 1 game. A win on Sunday night would bode well for McCarthy’s Cowboys.

Will it happen, though? Let’s find out what our writers think.

When Tampa Bay has the ball

Attack the interior

When the game kicks off Sunday, the Buccaneers will have three new starters along the interior of their offensive line. The anticipated lineup, from left to right, is second-round rookie Luke Goedeke, last year’s third-round pick Robert Hainsey, and Shaq Mason, whom the Buccaneers acquired from the Patriots. Only Mason has any experience as a starter entering this one, though all of his experience has been in New England.

That opens up an obvious Achilles heel for Tampa Bay, and one that the Cowboys are uniquely suited to exploit. They’re expecting big jumps from Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore, and Quinton Bohanna. There’s also a guy named Micah Parsons who should see plenty of blitzes up the middle. Something to keep in mind: last year, the Buccaneers ran 57% of all their run plays up the middle. If Dallas can exploit this weakness, it’ll throw off Tampa Bay’s entire rushing attack and put even more pressure on the passing game.

When Dallas has the ball

Don’t slam your head against the brick wall

When these two teams faced off last year, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore seemingly admitted that his offensive line wasn’t good enough to create success running against Tampa Bay’s stout defensive front. Instead, Dallas threw the ball at a very high rate and had a ton of success with it, even if they ultimately lost the game.

This offseason, though, Dallas has made concerted efforts to commit more to running the football. This approach could end up working out for them in the long run, but the Buccaneers are not the team to try it out against. The Cowboys need to trust Dak Prescott to pick apart this defense, just as he did last year, and avoid slamming their running backs’ heads against the brick wall that is Vita Vea.

Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...

Tom Ryle:

There is always a little uncertainty about the season opener, and the loss of a preseason game just makes it worse. Add in all those question marks surrounding the offensive line for the Cowboys and that they are relying on four wide receivers and two tight ends that have never caught an NFL pass to help fuel the offense, and we are really just guessing.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have very similar issues with their offensive line, and Tom Brady seems to be dealing with a major distraction in his personal life. I’m just going to throw out an optimistic take here. I have Dallas winning in a game where points are harder to come by than the level of quarterbacking would indicate.

Cowboys 23-16.

Tony Catalina:

There are a lot of questions the Cowboys will need answers to heading into week one. The issues are well documented and scrutinized, and in many cases rightfully so. However, what can’t be lost on everyone is the talent of this team. It’s there and it should be recognized. A Dak Prescott led team has never finished with a losing record and is 53-32 in his six-year career. This defense looks to be one of the league’s best in the second year of Dan Quinn’s system and with some young talent looking to take a leap in their young career, there is a lot to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball.

This game isn’t going to be easy. That goes without saying. Any time you face Tom Brady you are in for a challenge. However, the Bucs have issues of their own. Injury concerns and question marks on the offensive line and wide receiver room much like this Cowboys team will play a factor. Ultimately I think this Cowboys defense announce themselves as a real-deal respected unit that looks to build on last year’s campaign, and the Cowboys hold Brady and his boys to 17 as the Cowboys take home a victory to start 1-0.

Cowboys 20-17.

Matt Holleran:

I think Dallas’ offense is going to surprise some people this Sunday. Even without Tyron Smith, Michael Gallup, and James Washington I see the Cowboys being able to move the ball against Tampa’s defense.

On the other side of the ball, I see the Cowboys taking advantage of Tampa’s offensive line shuffling, getting consistent pressure on Tom Brady. However, in the end I think the Bucs are just a little better of a team, and they make one more big play than Dallas. The Cowboys struggle big time in the red zone and it comes back to bite them.

Give me the Buccaneers, 26-20.

Brandon Loree:

The usual offensive identity in Dallas is taking a back seat to their defense this season. There are more established playmakers on this defense entering Week 1 than there was last season like a seasoned Micah Parsons.

Tom Brady has had by far the strangest offseason of his career. He retired, came back, then took a quick sabbatical during training camp. Along with that and a compromised offensive line for the Bucs, Dallas find a way to win with defense.

Cowboys 21-17.

Matthew Arizzi:

This game should stay relatively close in what I expect to be a battle of the defenses. The Cowboys defense may not take a leap from being a top defense a season ago, but they boost enough talent to stay in games with high octane offenses. The Buccaneers also had a stellar defense a season ago and touted one of the best against the run, which could yield major problems come Sunday night.

The Cowboys offense on the other hand gives pre-Coop 2018 vibes. I’m frightened to see this offensive unit take the field and have tempered my expectations completely. As for this game in particular, I think it’s a close, low scoring game and the Cowboys get edged slightly.

24-23 Buccaneers.

Aidan Davis:

The Cowboys get one last shot at taking down Tom Brady. However, without Gronkowski or Antonio Brown, paired with an injured Chris Godwin and Russell Gage, the 45-year old quarterback should have a more difficult time airing the ball out. If Dallas can take advantage a weak interior offensive line by rushing Parsons up the A and B gaps, they can make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket which is the only way they can beat him.

As for the Dallas offense, the game plan should not be much different from last year. This is still a great Buccaneers defensive line and the Cowboys offensive line is weaker now than in the last opener. Which means that if they are not able to get anything going on the ground, they must be willing to let Dak take control of this game with his arm. With that said, this is essentially a battle of whose decimated o-line performs better and the Buccaneers did more to address the issue than Dallas did. It will be close but the Cowboys fall short again.

Cowboys 20, Tampa Bay 27.

Brian Martin:

With so much unknown still surrounding the 2022 Dallas Cowboys it’s difficult to know what to expect from them in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Are they still the high-scoring offense from a season ago without Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson? Will their defense continue to be the turnover making machine they were in 2021? And, what about their sketchy offensive line? Right now, we’re pretty much heading into Week 1 with very little to go on.

Even with all that in mind, I’m still going to predict another close game between the Cowboys and Buccaneers in the season opener. These two teams went back and forth last year, and even with the roster turnover this offseason, there’s no reason to believe that won’t happen again. Sadly, even with home-field advantage this time, I’m afraid Tom Brady will remain undefeated against Cowboys, leading Tampa Bay to their first victory on the season.

Buccaneers, 27-24.

RJ Ochoa:

The offseason was obviously not great for the Dallas Cowboys in a lot of ways, but it isn’t difficult to talk yourself into this team, with these top players, winning any game, including this particular one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’ve long said that last year’s matchup against the Bucs was made to look closer than it really was by way of a weird Chris Godwin fumble at the very end. That isn’t to say that Dallas wasn’t impressive in last year’s opener or across last season as a whole but all of it is relevant.

I’m picking the Cowboys to win because I want to mostly. There is certainly objective reason to and beyond the expected connection between Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb taking center stage on offense the main reason is Micah Parsons. There are a handful of true and legitimate X-factors like Micah across the NFL as a whole. Tampa has one in Tom Brady, but I’ll lean Micah for this particular matchup.

27-26, Cowboys.

David Howman:

Neither of these teams are as good as they were a year ago when they met in Tampa Bay, so I don’t expect this game to be as good but it should be similarly close. The Cowboys have all the necessary tools to take advantage of the Buccaneers’ questionable interior offensive line, but I also see this offense struggling to get the run game going.

I’m expecting a pretty sloppy night from both offenses in this one, and we’ll see more field goals than touchdowns. What it really comes down to is which coaching staff trusts their elte quarterback to go out and win the game more, and unfortunately that’s probably the Buccaneers. I see Tom Brady pulling off yet another game winning drive to give McCarthy his third straight Week 1 loss in as many years in Dallas.

Buccaneers win 19-18.

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