The Cowboys and their fans should certainly be excited about the 2021 season. Challenges may arise early though as they battle the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. They’ll be in the national spotlight sooner than anyone else. These are three keys to the first game of the year for Dallas.

Dallas’ Young Defense Against Tom Brady & the Tampa Bay Offense

This is quite the test for one of the most inexperienced secondary units in the NFL. For rookie Kelvin Joseph, in particular, there is a good chance that his first regular-season rep comes against Brady and Chris Godwin or Mike Evans. Dallas will need guys like Trevon Diggs and Jourdan Lewis to perform well in this game against one of the best wide receiver units in the NFL (alongside the Cowboys’ of course).

It will be very interesting to see how Dallas schemes up ways to try to slow down Tampa’s dynamic passing offense. They may look to blitz more often. If so, they better get home fairly often in order to fare well. Brady has always been known to dominate against blitzing teams when those teams don’t get much production in the sack column. Look for rookie Micah Parsons to be an X-Factor in this game as well if Dallas decides to send a lot of heat at him.

Dak’s Return Against a Top Defense in the League

Dak Prescott returning to the field will easily be the most exciting part of the start of the 2021 season. That goes for all NFL fans, not just Cowboys fans, too. He is one of the easiest players to like across the league, and people want to see him back. Prescott will have a tall task, though. Todd Bowles and the Bucs defense loves to send pressure, and Dak will definitely see plenty of it in his first action since early in 2020. He handles blitzes pretty effectively compared to other Quarterbacks, but his offensive line will still need to hold up for him.

Early success in the running game would make a big difference for Dallas as well. That would force Tampa to play the run a bit more and possibly open up some downfield throws for Dak and the trio of impressive receivers. Not to mention, Tampa Bay’s defense was arguably the best unit in the NFL at the end of last season. If their young players like Devin White and Carlton Davis continue to elevate their game, it will only make it tougher to put together consistent drives against them. Prescott and co. will have to be very efficient.

CeeDee Lamb Against TB’s Sean Murphy-Bunting in the Slot

These are two of the most energetic and athletic young skill position players in the league right now. Lamb will most likely see quite a bit of time in the slot with Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper on the outside. That’s also where SMB patrol most of the time for the Bucs. Murphy-Bunting showed some flashes last season, but he also got burned deep on a few occasions by some talented receivers.

Lamb is one of the most slippery route runners in the league. So, expect Murphy-Bunting to be pretty physical with him. He’ll have to be able to contain him. Dallas’ offensive talent won’t allow many teams to put multiple defenders on a single pass-catcher. In order for Dallas to pull this game out, Lamb will probably have to have a big game with his starting QB back in action.

Beating Tampa Bay won’t be easy to do, but these three storylines will decide Dallas’ fate in their season opener.


Featured Image via USA TODAY-Sports
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