The day that football fans across the country have been waiting for is finally upon us. The 2021 NFL season gets underway tonight with a Thursday night game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. 

For the reigning super bowl champs, the script is pretty simple; do it again. All 22 players that started in Super Bowl LV are returning to Tampa Bay in an attempt to hoist the Lombardi trophy for the second year in a row. 

The offseason for the Tom Brady led Buccaneers also included the signing of former Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard will be joining forces with running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones III creating yet another option for an already high powered offense. 

Another item worth mentioning is the restructuring of wide receiver Mike Evans’ contract. Evans, the three time pro bowler, is taking less money to create nearly 9 million dollars in cap space for the team. The newly boosted Buccaneers cap space can be put towards practice players, injured reserve players and to make moves moving forward in the season. To say that Tampa Bay has going back to back on their minds is an understatement. 

As for the team that will be standing on the other sideline during tonight’s game, the Cowboys are looking to bounce back from an underwhelming 2020 campaign. Dallas fans saw America’s team put up a lowly 6-10 record last season. 

Dallas undoubtedly has a star studded roster, but injuries plagued the team last year. Quarterback Dak Prescott’s ankle injury last year placed him on the IR for 11 games. Left tackle Tyron Smith missed 14 games with a neck injury while right tackle La’el Collin missed all 16 games with an injured hip. 

After a dreadful 2020 season, Dallas is looking to rebound in a big way, starting with their quarterback who will be healthy and paid. Dallas and Prescott agreed to a four year, $160 million dollar deal back earlier in March. Off season additions such as safety Keanu Neal and rookie first-round linebacker Micah Parsons will certainly help in improving their defense. 

A key element for a successful week one Dallas Cowboys is getting to and staying on the same page. Due to injuries, many of these starting players haven’t played much real game speed football with each other. However, Dallas has many young stars who are more than capable of dominating games. The key will be to shake the rust off early and be able to play together. 

If the Buccaneers can continue to create pressure like they did last year then they’ll most likely be heading to the locker room with smiles on their faces at the end of game. Pressure created from the defensive line and linebacking core will be pivotal in deciding a winner in tonight’s game. Dak Prescott hasn’t played a real game since week 5 of last season so pressure from a stifling Tampa Bay defensive line certainly would not help him get back into the swing of things. 

In terms of what Vegas is predicting for the game tonight, the spread is at Tampa bay -9. The over-under is calling for a somewhat high scoring game at 52. For the moneyline, Dallas is a  +350 underdog while Tampa Bay is a -450 favorite.

Tonight’s game will provide insight as to what Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy can do with a healthy roster. It would also give fans a glimpse into if Tom Brady is poised to make a run at his eighth super bowl ring. Regardless of favorite teams and players, football fans alike can finally be done waiting because week one is here.