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Free Pick: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9/9/21
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Free Pick: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9/9/21

This will be the opening game of the 2021 NFL schedule and it features the defending champion Buccaneers against the always entertaining Dallas Cowboys. The NFL knows how to get the season started and they have picked out a good one to open up the season. Let’s get to the matchups.

Quarterback: Both teams have quality quarterbacks but only one of them has Tom Brady and that is Tampa Bay. Until proven otherwise, he wins every matchup unless he is going against Mahomes. Dak Prescott is good but he is slightly overrated in our opinion. Advantage: Tampa Bay

Running Backs: The Bucs have a solid one-two punch out of the backfield with Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette and have depth at the position. Dallas is looking for a bounce-back year out of Ezekiel Elliott and also have Tony Pollard as a backup. Advantage: Tampa Bay

Receivers: The Cowboys are loaded at this position with wideouts Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup combining with tight end Dalton Schultz for 298 catches and 19 touchdowns in 2020. Having said all that, Tampa Bay isn’t far behind with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, and Rob Gronkowski. Advantage: Dallas

Offensive Line: Tampa has an offensive line that is durable and dependable which are two very important adjectives in the NFL. The Cowboys suffered through a string of injuries that crippled their offensive line. All-Pro tackle, Tyron Smith only played two games and fellow All-Pro guard Zack Martin missed six games and tackle La”el Collins didn’t play at all. Advantage: Neither

Defensive Line: The Cowboys were awful upfront in 2020 and they have made a ton of changes to bolster this group. Meanwhile, Tampa had the league’s stingiest run defense and returns veteran Ndamukong Sun, along with Vita Vea and Michael Gholston. Advantage: Tampa Bay

Linebackers: The Bucs have strengths everywhere at linebacker. Devin White and Lavonte David combined for 257 tackles last year and Jason Pierre-Paul had 9.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. They also have sack-specialist Shaq Barrett to add to the group. Dallas is excited about first-round draft choice Micah Parsons and are hoping that they can get good years out of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. Advantage: Tampa Bay

Secondary: Dallas is improving in the secondary and are strong at cornerback with Trevon Diggs and a couple of 2021 draft picks in Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright. Safety is an issue. Meanwhile, the Bucs have a start in safety, Antoine Winfield Jr. and cornerback, Carlton Davis was great with 18 pass breakups and four interceptions. They are solid. Advantage: Tampa Bay

Coaching: Both head coaches have had successful careers in the NFL. Bruce Arians has an overall record of 72-46-1 and is 5-2 in the postseason. Mike McCarthy is no slouch with an overall record of 141-95-2 and is 10-8 in the playoffs. Advantage: Neither

On paper, the Buccaneers seem to have a distinct advantage but games aren’t won on paper. Tampa is the defending Super Bowl Champion and they are going to get everyone’s full attention. They are a 8 point favorite and that seems reasonable but Dallas has enough talent to have a chance if they play at their best.

Dudes Who Bet Sports Pick: Tampa Bay –8

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