Week 1 Preview: Dallas Cowboys vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In a rematch of last year's instant classic Thursday Night Kickoff game, the Dallas Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the inaugural game of this season's Sunday Night Football slate. The teams slugged it out in a back-and-forth aerial assault in 2021, with quarterbacks Tom Brady and Dak Prescott combing for an absurd 782 passing yards. The game went down to the wire, with Tampa finally kicking a field goal to go up 31-29 in the final seconds. The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites this week to go on the road and deliver some more heartbreak.

Brady has a long and dominant history in his limited action against the Cowboys, winning all six of his starts against America's Team. Considering the 45-year-old quarterback briefly retired earlier this offseason, the Cowboys may not have a lot of chances to right that wrong. They'll need to slow a passing attack that includes a wide receiver group that one Bucs player has already declared maybe the best ever, and if last year is any indication, that won't come easy.
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The Cowboys defense finished strong last season, allowing the seventh fewest points in the league despite that opening game, but they'll be short longtime pass rusher Randy Gregory, who signed with the Denver Broncos this past offseason on a five-year, $70 million deal. They'll have to hope they can maintain their incredible turnover rate despite his absence; the team forced the most turnovers in the league last year at 34.

Both teams' offensive lines should be put to the test after the Bucs lost key starter Ryan Jensen and the Cowboys lost potential Hall of Fame left tackle Tyron Smith. The Bucs notched more sacks than the Cowboys last year with 47 to the Cowboys' 41, but with ascendent linebacker Micah Parsons already getting Defensive Player of the Year buzz, it's possible the Bucs interior line could face a stiff test on blitzes.

In all likelihood, the Cowboys will need to score in bunches just like last year if they want to keep up with the Bucs, but that could be easier said than done. The Cowboys traded away wide receiver Amari Cooper this offseason, who tallied a team-high 139 receiving yards and two touchdowns in last year's game, and all indications are Michael Gallup won't be ready, either. Typically, the Cowboys could lean on the run, but that's a tall order against the Bucs: Tampa has finished top three in the league in rushing yards allowed in each of the past three seasons.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Dallas Cowboys in their regular season opener on Sunday Night Football.

Photo Credit:© Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports