Training camp is over, teams have narrowed their rosters down to 53, pre-season games are in the rear view mirror and the 2022-2023 NFL Season is ready to begin. On Sunday night, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Arlington to face the Dallas Cowboys in a rematch from last season’s thrilling opening night game. The Bucs got the better of Dallas in that one, winning 31-29 on a late field goal by Ryan Succop.
Both Tampa and Dallas have gone through some changes this off-season which could affect the outcome of the season for each team. The Buccaneers lost guard Alex Cappa, but traded for Brady’s old teammate Shaq Mason and drafted guard Luke Goedeke in the second round. Tampa Bay also brought in veteran wide receivers Julio Jones and Russell Gage, along with re-signing outstanding slot receiver Chris Godwin. Oh, and they also had their star quarterback Tom Brady stave off retirement for one more year. Defensively, Tampa Bay returns nearly all their starters from a year ago, save for Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh. Both players were trending on the older side and have been replaced with recent draft picks. The key injury for the Buccaneers is the loss of center Ryan Jensen along the offensive line.
Dallas lost five key contributors from last season’s playoff team, with La’el Collins, Cedrick Wilson, Connor Williams and Randy Gregory all signing free agent deals with opposing teams. Amari Cooper was also traded to the Cleveland Browns for a 5th round pick in what looks to be now nothing more than a salary dump. The Cowboys did seemingly address the receiver position, signing free agent James Washington and drafting Jalen Tolbert. But with the injury to Washington and the continued rehab for Michael Gallup, an already thin receiving core looks more troublesome each day. Dallas also signed Dante Fowler to a one year deal to seemingly take the place of Randy Gregory on the defensive line. With Tyron Smith going down in practice last week, Dallas signed former Eagles left tackle Jason Peters in an effort to shore up an already suspect offensive line (outside of Zach Martin). With Peters still on the practice squad, rookie first round draft pick Tyler Smith will get the start at left tackle.
It’s interesting to note that Dak Prescott has never had to play with such a suspect offensive line in his career with the Cowboys. Todd Bowles, head coach of the Buccaneers and primary defensive play caller, blitzed more than any other coach in the NFL last season. Expect that trend to continue as Tampa Bay tries to pressure Dak into forced throws. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will need to scheme plays to quickly get the ball out of Prescott’s hands and into the hands of his primary weapons to avoid any unnecessary hits. Tosses, sweeps and quick slants should all be in the game plan.
Last season’s matchup between these two teams was an absolute spectacle, with four receivers going over 100 yards receiving, neither starting running back amassing more than 33 yards and both quarterbacks throwing over 50 passes. This season’s matchup should be a little bit different, as both teams have key injuries along their offensive lines that may require some more quick throws and emphasis on the run game.
Final Prediction: Tampa Bay 31, Dallas 21.