By Chris Schisler
The NFL Kickoff is here! It’s here! We made it. The sun now has my permission to come up each morning, my neighbor’s rooster even has permission to “ca-caw” today. Everything is a little bit better because the NFL is back. Let’s break down the game we’re all about to see. Do we usually just stick to Baltimore Ravens football? Yes. But, you’re watching tonight so I’m talking about the game.
Bucs Defense could write the story of NFL Kickoff
This game is going to boil down to the defensive side of the football. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl after Tom Brady came in and legitimized their operation. Still, the best part of the Buccaneers is the defense.
The athleticism that the Tampa Bay defense is off the charts, especially at the second level of the defense. Devin White and Lavonte David can cover a lot of ground and help against the run and in pass defense. Shaq Barrett is one of the best pass rushers in the game of football. With a good secondary behind them, this defense is the calling card of the team that gets less attention than the quarterback who wears 12.
The big key for the Buccaneers is to keep everything in front of them. Without Dak Prescott the Dallas Cowboys were a sad puppy fighting wolves. Prescott is back and the Cowboys have some teeth to show again. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup make a nice trio at the wide receiver positions, while Ezekiel Elliott is still a dangerous running back.
You know what the Cowboys want to do. They want to push the ball deep down the field. Prescott, not Elliott, has become the main ingredient in the Cowboys’ attack. The game plan for the Buccaneers is going to be incredibly similar to their game plan in the Super Bowl against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. While Prescott isn’t exactly Patrick Mahomes, he’s still arguably a top 10 passer in the NFL.
If the Buccaneers can keep things in front of them while generating pressure without sending too many extra blitzing linebackers, Dallas is going to be bottled up. That athleticism I talked about at the second level of the defense is going to be such a huge key in this battle. The linebackers ability to cover is going to be a core component of the game if Tampa Bay wins this thing.
How the Cowboys should attack Tampa Bay:
If I was Mike Mccarthy here’s what I would do with my Cowboys’ offense. I would try to give Tampa a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott. Going to a more run-oriented attack is running into the strength of the Buccaneers linebacker corps, but it’s not like the middle of the field can be off-limits for the whole offense.
Sticking to the ground game will allow the Cowboys to keep some of the pressure off Prescott in his first game back from a brutal injury last season. The Buccaneers have no interest in allowing big plays down the field – big plays down the field are going to be the lifeblood of the Cowboys’ offense – so play-action needs to be set up. The Cowboys need to trap the Buccaneers into being over-aggressive in the tackle box. That’s when Prescott can attack.
That’s when the Cowboys can get the real payoff there. It’s not about Elliott and Tony Pollard racking up 100 or more yards on the ground. It’s about sneaking a couple of shots past a defense that doesn’t give many up. If the Cowboys do run for over 100 yards, this will be a damn competitive game.
I said the whole thing boils down to defense. I meant that. The reason I have focused on the Buccaneers’ defense is that they have my trust. I know what to expect from Tampa Bay on defense. The Cowboys have to earn my trust on the defensive part of the equation. There’s no getting around the fact that the Cowboys’ defense has been absolutely terrible, and terrible for a while.
The NFL Kickoff bottom line:
I could see this game being a shootout or a close struggle in which both teams have some kinks to work out. Either way, I trust the Buccaneers’ defense to get enough stops, to get at least one more stop than Dallas will. Probably several more stops. The Cowboys gave up 29.6 points per game last season. If the Buccaneers score just 24 in this game,
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I think they’ll have enough. Last year, the Buccaneers averaged 30.3 points per game. I wasn’t ignoring the Buccaneers’ offense in this post. I just think we can expect the Buccaneers’ offense to have the best of the matchup against the Cowboys defense. The Buccaneers can win in multiple ways, the Cowboys just need their offense to do too much of the heavy lifting to expect a Dallas win. Happy NFL Kickoff guys and gals.