Bold predictions are always fun. It's arguably one of the best topics to write about when it comes to the NFL season. So, naturally, we have to make some bold predictions for the Bucs-Cowboys season opener, right?
Of course we do. So without further ado, let's dive in to the first set of bold predictions for the 2021 season.
5. The Bucs hang 30+ points on the Cowboys
I know scoring 30+ points in this day and age isn't a big deal. Especially when you're talking about the type of offense that Bucs have and the type of defense Dallas is projected to have. However, when you look at this matchup in a historical context, you can see why this is considered "bold".
Tampa Bay has issues scoring points when playing Dallas. The Bucs average just 13.9 points per game over the 19-game series since 1977. They've never scored more than 27 points and they haven't scored more than 21 points since the 2000 matchup, where they scored their series-high 27 points. The Bucs have averaged 13.1 points per game over the last 10 games.
Well, that all changes on Thursday night. Not only will the Bucs snap a two-game losing streak, but they'll also top the 30-point threshold for the first time ever against the Cowboys.
20th time's the charm, right?
4. Dallas' receivers combine for 250+ yards and 2+ touchdowns
The biggest question concerning the Bucs defense is the secondary. Yes, the unit was lights out in the playoffs, but it also had its fair share of struggles throughout the regular season.
Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean are going to have their hands full going up against Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. All three receivers have their own unique traits and the Cowboys know how to take advantage of their talents. Even a rusty Dak Prescott can have a ton of success with these guys.
The one outside factor that could prevent the receivers from having a big night is the Bucs pass rush against Dallas' pass pro. Well, believe it or not, Dallas' offensive line finished 2020 with the 13th-lowest adjusted sack rate in the NFL, per Football Outsiders. And that was without Tyron Smith and La'el Collins for a combined 30 games.
Even if Zack Martin doesn't play, the additions of Smith and Collins are huge. They will certainly help overcome the Bucs pass rush to an extent and in turn allow Prescott to have plenty of time to find his guys.
3. Tom Brady throws for 350+ yards and 3+ touchdowns
Speaking of talented receivers, Brady has his own trio that any NFL quarterback would love to have. And the trio of Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Chris Godwin will be going up against a much less impressive Dallas secondary when compared to the Bucs secondary.
But it doesn't stop there. He also has three more-than-capable tight ends in Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate. Then, there's pass-catching specialist Giovani Bernard coming out of the backfield.
Brady is up to his eyes in talent. The Dallas defense is not good, especially the secondary. The 'Boys also don't have much of a pass rush -on paper- to threaten with.
All of this adds up to a big night for No. 12.
2. Ezekiel Elliott runs for 50 yards or less
For those who don't know about the Bucs run defense over the last couple of years: you should study up. It's a suffocating unit that rarely allows running backs to have success.
And it's even stonewalled the league's top backs over the last two years. Just take a look at what the Bucs run defense has done to following list of All-Pros and/or Pro-Bowlers since 2019:
- Derrick Henry: 16 carries, 75 yards
- Christian McCaffrey: 56 carries, 127 yards, 2TDs in three games
- Alvin Kamara: 68 carries, 278 yards, 1TD in five games
- Dalvin Cook: 22 carries, 102 yards, 1TD
- Aaron Jones: 16 carries, 42 yards, 1TD in two games
- Saquon Barkley: 8 carries, 10 yards
- Josh Jacobs: 10 carries, 17 yards
I mean, that pretty much tells you all you need to know. Barkley did leave the 2019 matchup early, but he was rendered obsolete beforehand. Cook is the only player to have major success against the Bucs run defense in two years.
Zeke won't be the next running back to have success. Take that to the bank.
1. Ronald Jones II runs for 150+ yards and scores a receiving touchdown
Dallas' run defense was putrid in 2020. Now, it doesn't mean that holds through in 2021, but most are hard-pressed to think otherwise considering the front seven the Cowboys are set to put on the field this year.
That's not what makes this a bold prediction, obviously. What makes this stat line bold is the fact that RoJo probably won't receive more than 15 carries, at most. He's also not the best receiving back in the league. Hell, he's not even the best on his team.
But he will fight off the playing time demons as well as the pass-catching demons on Thursday night en route to a big, big game. Unlike Zeke, plug RoJo into that lineup and don't change him out.
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