2021 Record: 13-4 (lost in the Divisional Round)
Last Meeting: Week one 2021 (31-29 Buccaneers victory)
Head Coach: Todd Bowles (26-41 as a Head Coach)
Key Additions: WR Russell Gage, S Logan Ryan, LB Keanu Neal
Key Departures: TE Rob Gronkowski, S Jordan Whitehead, RB Ronald Jones
After a 2020 season that saw Tom Brady lead the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory, Brady and company came up short and were not able to take home the Lombardi Trophy for a second year in a row. Instead, Tampa Bay saw their season cut short in the Divisional Round by Matthew Stafford and the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. After an impressive 13-4 regular season campaign, it’s tough not to think that the Buccaneers ultimately have to feel like 2021 was a let down in their title defense.
The offseason following the playoff loss was nothing short of interesting for the Bucs as they saw Tom Brady retire, then subsequently unretire not much longer after doing so, Rob Gronkowski officially called it quits himself, and their head coach Bruce Arians stepped aside to make way for his good friend Todd Bowles to take over. All this happened and we didn’t even get to mention Antonio Brown yet either.
Player to watch… Tom Brady, QB
Whenever Tom Brady is on the other sideline your defense better be ready to bring it for four quarters and understand what they are up against. The 45-year-old QB has proven week in and week out for 20 plus years that he is a threat and should be treated as such. Even with a very strange offseason for TB12 that saw him retire then come back, followed by a mid-training-camp 11-day hiatus, Brady is always one to watch and respect as he is capable of taking a game over from the opening kickoff and putting teams away in a hurry. Tom, at the ripe age of 44, finished the 2021 season with impressive numbers tallying 5,316 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, and a completion percentage of 67.5% on the season and will look to deliver more of the same this year.
No question that the vet still has some game, but just how much is left in the tank remains to be seen. Brady found himself ranked as the league’s top player once again by his peers on this years Top 100 list and in his astonishing 23rd season Tom again looks to lead Tampa Bay to another title push.
Tom Brady says the belief that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could win another Super Bowl under his leadership drove him to end his brief retirement earlier this year.
While speaking with co-host Jim Gray in an episode of Let’s Go!, their SiriusXM show with Larry Fitzgerald, published Tuesday, Brady said he “felt like I had a little left” when deciding to return to the NFL less than two months into his retirement.
“I want to give it a shot — and I owed it to my teammates and our great coaches and our whole organization,” 45-year-old Brady said on the show. “We built something pretty special here in Tampa the last few years. We were pretty close [to a Super Bowl run] last year, at the end of last year. We lost to the Super Bowl champ. They made a few more plays than we did in that game.”
Don’t forget about… Leonard Fournette, RB
Rightfully so, many NFL defensive coordinators are focused on how to stop Tom Brady and his passing attack. However, when preparing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is not wise to dismiss Leonard Fournette and their capable running game. Fournette is a quality NFL running back who has shown ability to be tough to tackle as well as having the athleticism to hit a big run in the open field. Fournette had a productive 2021 season that saw him finish the year with 812 yards on the ground and 10 total touchdowns to go along with 69 receptions and 454 yards in the air.
When Fournette and the running game is firing on all cylinders, it only makes Tom Brady and that play-action passing attack that much more dangerous. The Cowboys cannot afford to forget about Fournette and his ability, and stopping Tampa’s offense from getting any type of rhythm on the ground is just one piece of the puzzle to walk out of Sunday night with a victory.
Look out for… Chris Godwin, WR
Chris Godwin and his availability is a very interesting storyline to follow leading up to kickoff. Not many, myself included, figured Godwin into the equation for week one as he is coming off a late-season ACL tear that did not project to have him ready for game action this early in the year. According to multiple sources, that may no longer be the case and Godwin has a chance to be on the field versus the Cowboys on Sunday night.
There are still some doubts, and honestly it would still be some what of a surprise to see Godwin out on the field running routes week one, but it is no longer a sure thing that the Cowboys will be lucky enough to miss out on the Buccaneers full onslaught of a passing attack for week one. If Godwin is good to go it creates an interesting match up challenge as the Bucs would boast one of the best three-headed monsters at the wide receiver group in the league comprised of Mike Evans, Godwin, and newly acquired Julio Jones.
Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin seemed to take a big step toward being in the lineup for the season opener against the Cowboys this week when he was spotted practicing without a knee brace to protect the ACL he tore late last season, but he’s not ready to rule himself in for Sunday night just yet.
Godwin was a guest on the installment of the In the Moment with David Greene podcast released on Tuesday and was asked about the likelihood of him playing in Week One. Godwin declined to put a percentage on his chances.
“That’s a great question,” Godwin said. “I don’t think any of us know that yet . . . In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it matters that much. I would love to be there for the entire season, but I think what’s more important is being there for the second half of the season. Being there for what I missed last year.”
Overall, this is a quality football team. They have a very tough front seven on defense with fast, athletic linebackers that fill gaps in the running game and cover tight ends and backs exceptionally well. Where this team may be susceptible to problems is in the secondary as the talent doesn’t quite matchup with the rest of the unit. The question remains though, do the Cowboys have the talent to exploit that perceived weakness? It remains to be seen what this offense looks like prior to Michael Gallup returning from injury.
We talked at length about this Tom Brady-led offense and the challenge this Cowboys defense has in front of them. With a full slate of receiving threats, and a tough running attack the Cowboys defense needs to come prepared and ready for 60 minutes of tough assignment specific football. Much like the Cowboys though, the Tampa Bay offensive line has questions and injuries of their own. If the Cowboys front seven is able to wreak havoc and get in Brady’s face all night, it very well can change the complexion of this game and bode well for the Cowboys in week one.