TNF Preview and Prediction: Dallas at Tampa Bay

Blake Von Hagen is bullish on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers as home favorites tonight vs. Dallas.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Line: Tampa Bay -8.5

Total: 51.5

Where: Raymond James Stadium

When: Thursday, 9/9 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

There is rarely much of a discrepancy between sportsbooks when it comes to the NFL betting market.

Thursday night’s season opener between Tampa Bay and Dallas does not fit into that mold, though. Line shoppers can get the Buccaneers as low as -7.5 (MyBookie), while contrarians can take Dallas at +9.5 (BetOnline). We’ll call the consensus line -8.5 on the defending champions.

Oddsmakers opened Tampa Bay as a 6-point favorite in the summer, but that line has slowly been bet up. The total has dipped slightly from 52 to 51.5.

Tampa Bay can become the first team to win consecutive titles since Tom Brady won back-to-back rings with New England in 2003-04. Brady is back with the Buccaneers this season and has no plans of slowing down.

“We have a lot of continuity,” Brady said. “We have a lot of things to build on and a lot more experience together. That’s really all you can ask for as players is to be in the position that we’re in. I’d just like us to go out and take advantage of that.”

The Bucs have all 22 starters back from their title team, where they finished inside the top 10 offensively and defensively. They will be looking to get off to a hot start in 2021 when they face a Dallas team that cannot seem to catch a break with injuries.

The Cowboys spent most of the 2020 campaign without quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last October. He missed the preseason this year with a strained right shoulder, but he is expected to play on Thursday night.

However, Dallas is going to be without All-Pro right guard Zack Martin, who tested positive for COVID-19. Martin missed six games last season and will be replaced by Connor McGovern.

The Cowboys struggled following the injuries last year, but Prescott threw for 450-plus yards in three of his four starts prior to the injury. Their main concern will be defensively, where they finished second-to-last in rushing yards allowed last season.

Dallas hired Dan Quinn as its new defensive coordinator. Quinn will be implementing his scheme without tackle Neville Gallimore, who is out with a dislocated elbow.

The Cowboys cannot afford a slow start against Tampa Bay, who finished the year on an eight-game winning streak. The Buccaneers scored at least 30 points in seven of those eight games. They have struggled in recent season openers, though, covering in only four of its last 14 Week 1 games.

Tampa Bay went 1-5 ATS as a home favorite last season. It did cover the number in five of its final six games. The Bucs have gone ‘under’ the total in their last five head-to-head meetings with Dallas.

The Cowboys have won seven of their last eight games against Tampa Bay, but they are 2-9 in their last 11 road games. They have won four of their last five contests against a team from the NFC South.

The pick: Tampa Bay -8.5

Bettors might be able to shop around and get a lower number than -8.5, but anything in the single-digit range is a good play. Tampa Bay has more momentum than any team in the NFL and the entire team is back this season. Dallas should be able to improve defensively under Quinn, but it’s going to be tough to see those improvements come to fruition in a Week 1 matchup against Brady. The Buccaneers have way more weapons than Dallas and are much healthier entering the season. The only real concern I have in this game is a backdoor cover from the Cowboys, but I will take my chances with the reigning champs.

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