120 days from now, the Dallas Cowboys will travel southeast to Tampa, Flordia to kick off the 2021 NFL regular season. To say this game could foreshadow the upcoming season might be an understatement.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are obviously the defending Super Bowl champs, led by seven-time championship-winning quarterback Tom Brady (Note: Correction from six). With Brady at the helm, against a new-look Cowboys defense, it’s safe to say the Bucs will be ready to begin their quest to defend the title.
How this Cowboys offense responds could be a sign for things to come. The headlines pretty much write themselves. Brady coming off his 20th season, earning his sixth Super Bowl ring and fourth Super Bowl MVP. On a team where they retained 22 out of 22 starters from the championship team the year prior.
On the flip side, you have Dak Prescott returning from a major injury, looking to lead his team to where they want to be. The four-year, $160 million extension put the entire weight of the Cowboys on his shoulders. Even though that isn’t anything new to him. Prescott has been this team’s leader since 2016, the extension just makes it more public.
While the Buccaneers and their fans are enjoying the banner ceremony celebrating the championship win from the season before, Dak and the Cowboys will be getting ready to begin a new journey towards the ultimate goal of hoisting a Lombardi trophy.
Not that Prescott needs any more reasons to be ready to go, but I would guess that him seeing the banner being raised, and knowing he is playing against Brady for possibly his final time, he will be ready to go.
The first matchup between Prescott and Brady didn’t go well for Dallas. Back in the 2019 season, the Cowboys traveled up to Foxborough during week 12 to take on the New England Patriots.
Dallas was just coming off a 35-27 win over the Detroit Lions. Playing against the Jeff Driskel led Lions, Prescott threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns to help get the win. The Cowboys were 6-4 heading into the matchup against the Patriots, with their eyes set on securing a playoff spot.
In the rainy game in Foxborough, the Cowboys wound go 2 of 13 on 3rd down. Prescott threw 212 yards and one interception compared to Brady’s 190 yards and one touchdown. New England ended up winning the game 13-9.
The loss to the Patriots was the first of a three-game losing streak. The others were a loss to the Josh Allen-led Buffalo Bills followed by a loss to the Mitchell Trubisky-led Chicago Bears. Dallas would end up finishing the season 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
This time around, in what may be his last shot against the goat, Prescott and the Cowboys are looking for a different outcome. The Cowboys have a serious opportunity to set the tone for the 2021 season.
The game against the Buccaneers, on national television, could be a sign of things to come for 2021. The Cowboys have a chance to show that they made the right decision in hitching their future to Prescott, that Dak is fully healed, and that head coach Mike McCarthy is the right man for the job. The offense flopping right out of the gate might be cause for concern.
New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will improve this defense. With the additions of rookies like LB Micah Parsons, CB Kelvin Joseph, LB Jabril Cox, and CB/S Israel Mukuamu, mixed with a few of the free-agent signings, and hopefully a full 17 games from DE Randy Gregory, this unit should be close to the middle of the pack by season’s end.
The 2021 Dallas Cowboys will need to prove that they are capable of handling big moments. A playoff win or two also feels pretty necessary. Even after the atrocious 2020 season, this is a borderline top 10 roster that should compete for a playoff run. Anything less will feel like another disappointment.