We have finally made it to Week 1 as the Dallas Cowboys travel to Tampa Bay to take on the defending champion Buccaneers on Thursday night football. America’s teams vs. Tom Brady set up for one highly anticipated season opener.
These two teams sport two of the best rosters in football and there will be plenty of must-see matchups on the field. Dallas’ offense will need to come out firing in the opener, due to Tampa Bay having a stout run defense and not wanting to be playing from behind.
Without further ado, here are the best matchups to watch for in Week 1.
Connor McGovern Vs. Ndamukong Suh/Vita Vea
With Zack Martin likely to miss Thursday’s game due to being in the Covid protocol. McGovern steps in and gets the start at right guard. This might be the most important matchup of the night for the Cowboys’ offense.
Vea and Suh will probably both see time at nose tackle for the Bucs in their 3-4 defense. Which means McGovern will have his hands full. Dallas has to be effective running the football on Thursday night to have optimal success on offense. Tampa Bay was the number one rush defense in the NFL last year allowing only 80.8 yards per game.
Losing the All-Pro Martin for this game is not ideal but McGovern must step up and perform admirably to give the Cowboys’ offense a chance to light up the scoreboard.
Cowboys Secondary vs. Bucs Wide Receivers
The biggest question mark on the Cowboys roster is their secondary. Well, that group will be tested in this first game. Having to face Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown is a tall task.
Trevon Diggs has a pretty good hold on the number one cornerback job but after him, there are a lot of question marks. Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Maurice Canady expect to see plenty of playing time and they need to play well. The Cowboys’ defense does not have any time to waste. It is go time and they need to show major improvements on defense starting against Tampa.
Safeties Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker are both new to the team but they should both have a role on Thursday, playing alongside Donovan Wilson. Hooker was most known for his ball skills coming out of college which helped make him a first-round pick. Dallas will need to see those ball skills from Hooker and the rest of the secondary Thursday night to contain the high-powered Bucs offense.
Amari Cooper/CeeDee Lamb vs. Carlton Davis/Sean Murphy- Bunting
The Cowboys skill players must prevail in their one-on-one matchups on the perimeter to be successful in the passing game. Cooper and Lamb are both number one caliber receivers and they should be able to create separation against the Bucs top two corners.
According to PlayerProfiler, Carlton Davis ranked 37th in the NFL in passer rating allowed last season. He allowed a rating of 91.5 when he was targeted. Likewise, he ranked 65th in catch rate allowed with a 68.5%.
Opposing QBs had plenty of success targeting Sean Murphy-Bunting last season with him ranking 74th in the league in passer rating allowed with a 122.7. His coverage rating was also -20.4 which ranked 71st in the NFL. Tampa Bay can be had through the air and Dak Prescott will have to rely on Cooper and Lamb to beat these two corners consistently.
Randy Gregory vs. Donovan Smith
Getting pressure on Tom Brady will be the key to the game for the Cowboys’ defense, especially because of their shaky secondary. DeMarcus Lawrence will have his hands full with Tristan Wirfs so Randy Gregory must supply some pressure. This is a huge upcoming season for Gregory as it is his first time getting a full offseason and he is fully healthy. When Gregory has played in recent seasons we saw flashes of elite pass-rush ability.
There would be no better coming out party for Gregory than on Thursday Night Football to kick off the 2021 season. Brady is not a mobile quarterback so when he has to move around in the pocket he gets uncomfortable. Brady was sacked 22 times last season and six of those were allowed by Smith. He is clearly the lesser of the two offensive tackles on Tampa and someone the Cowboys need to exploit.