Bucs vs. Cowboys Spread, Over/Under & Prop Bets For 2021 NFL Kickoff On Thursday Night Football
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bucs WR Mike Evans (13)
- A spread pick. An over/under bet. Two player prop angles.
- Find out how our experts are betting Bucs vs. Cowboys on Thursday night.
The NFL returns for its first 17-game season this Thursday night, and they've gifted bettors with an opening night matchup between two of the league's most explosive offenses — hence the 51.5-point over/under.
Find out how our analysts are betting the Bucs vs. Cowboys matchup on Thursday Night Football below.
Bucs vs. Cowboys Odds & Picks
Cowboys +8.5 at BetMGM
Brandon Anderson: What's the one thing everyone has been absolutely most certain of all offseason heading into the new year? It's the Bucs.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are absolutely loaded, a juggernaut Super Bowl champion returning virtually the entire title roster with the GOAT at quarterback, a litany of weapons and plenty of help on defense. The Bucs are Super Bowl favorites, and they're the one team just about everyone agrees will clearly be awesome.
Tampa Bay is also the biggest Week 1 favorite, and most people are just sort of assuming a Bucs blowout win to kick the season off tonight, especially after a less than enthralling season of Hard Knocks previewing the Dallas Cowboys.
Everyone is locked in on the Buccaneers, both tonight and for the season, and the line is continuing to rise in Tampa's favor. This is a sure thing … right?
Well, what's the one thing we know about the NFL every season? It's a league of parity, and we need to expect the unexpected. The fun of the NFL is that things never go how we expect, and that so many games come down to a couple key 50/50 plays.
And that's why I'm giving the Cowboys a chance.
Hard Knocks aside, I've had a good feeling about this team all offseason. If there's any offense that might be as talented as the Bucs, it's these Cowboys with Dak Prescott back, a healthy offensive line and the return of Ezekiel Elliott and a tough run game, and three great receivers. CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup are outstanding, and the one soft spot on the Bucs' roster is at cornerback, so these Dallas WRs could be in for a big night.
That's also a great recipe for a backdoor cover, even if things don't go our way early.
Tom Brady's teams have often started out the season slowly in the past. Heck, they did that just last year. Brady has his eye on the end target, not the start of the race. His teams typically use September to feel things out and slowly get the gears moving. And in my final NFL season preview, I listed the Cowboys in my final set of eight Super Bowl contenders right there with the Bucs.
Time to put my money where my mouth is.
I'm backing Dallas on the road to cover the 8.5-point spread, and I'll take it a step further to sprinkle justa little on the +340 moneyline at DraftKings, too. Just to imagine a world in which America's Team knocks off the unbeatable champs to kick off the season.
Let's play some football!
Over 51.5 (-105) at PointsBet
- Tom Brady could be primed for a Year 2 leap in Tampa Bay akin to Peyton Manning's Year 2 leap in Denver.
- Brady should be able to take advantage of the Cowboys' weak secondary.
- The Cowboys welcome Dak Prescott back, but they'll be missing RG Zack Martin against the No. 1 run defense of 2020 (via Football Outsiders' DVOA), which could lead to an emphasis on the pass game for Dallas.
- Both of these offenses play at breakneck paces.
The total for a season-opener between two popular teams usually screams "under," but for all the reasons above, the over is in play here.
This game has seen 59% of the bets and 42% of the money come in on the over as of writing (check real-time public betting data here), but nothing about that scares me away from this over. I'm projecting the total closer to 53 points, and believe that the scoring environment for this matchups screams over, so I'd take the over up to 53.
6-Point Teaser: Bucs (-2) & Rams (-1.5)
Raheem Palmer: The Buccaneers opened as 6.5-point favorites, but this line has since been bet up to 8.5 given the uncertainty surrounding Dak Prescott after his return from a gruesome leg injury and the shoulder strain that kept him out of the preseason.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they’ll be without RG Zack Martin, who will miss the opening game after testing positive for COVID-19. While the offensive line is certainly competent without Martin, La’el Collins does have a stinger injury that is notorious for set backs. In addition, the Cowboys prefer to rely on the run with Eziekel Elliott and they’ll be facing a dominant Bucs defensive line featuring Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vae, and William Gholston that was first in rushing efficiency.
Nevertheless, the Cowboys will likely be one dimensional in Prescott’s return from the first major injury of his career.
Given the Cowboys' struggles on defense, they’ll be forced to match point for point with Tom Brady, Bruce Arians and a Buccaneers offense that is in its second year together and have built continuity after winning eight straight games en route to their Super Bowl victory. With their first full off season together, you can expect this offensive unit to be even better, and they’re facing a Cowboys defense that hired Dan Quinn to be its coordinator.
When has Quinn shown that he’s capable of heading a defense? When he was fired as head coach of the Falcons, they were 30th in EPA/play. After being replaced by Raheem Morris, the Falcons finished the season 15th.
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 9, 2021
The Cowboys are all but drawing dead against this Buccaneers defense, and with Prescott returning from a major injury, there’s no doubt in my mind that the defending champions will start this season 1-0. While I can't recommend laying the 8.5 points now because you’re getting the worst of the number, I do think they should cover it.
The real edge here is that this is prime spot for a teaser. While ideally we'd want to tease a game with a total of less than 49, with the Bucs having so many advantages, we should be fine in this spot. Place the Buccaneers in 6-point teasers along with the Rams crossing out key numbers of 7, 6, and 3 with both teams needing to win by a field goal.
CeeDee Lamb Over 61.5 Receiving Yards (-115) at PointsBet
Lamb battled his way to a 58.5 per-game average in 2020 despite contending with poor quarterback play for most of the season and crested this total in three of the four full games in which he did play with Prescott. Lamb also posted 124 receiving yards in Week 5 against the Giants, the game that Prescott left early with his season-ending ankle injury.
Lamb's 40 targets over those first five games shows the recognition of the Dallas coaching staff to get him heavily involved.
The Cowboys are going to need to pass to keep this game competitive. The Bucs' defense allowed the fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs last season and the second-fewest fantasy points. With teammate Amari Cooper likely drawing the attention of top Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean, Lamb should be involved early in the season opener.
This game features a 51.5 point over/under, the third-highest total for Week 1 (compare real-time NFL odds here). With the Buccaneers favored by 8.5 points, Dallas will need to score points or chase points in the second half. Lamb is ready for a big sophomore campaign, and it starts with an over on a surprisingly-low receiving prop.
Michael Gallup Longest Rec Over 21.5 Yards (-115) at DraftKings
Billy Ward: With the return of Dak Prescott to (hopefully) full strength, I’m expecting the Cowboys' explosive offense from last September to return. They averaged more than 400 passing yards per game in Prescott’s four full starts last season and return their receiving corps from last season.
While he caught only a limited number of passes, third receiving option Michael Gallup saw the primary deep shots for the Cowboys. He averaged — averaged! — more than 20 yards per reception with Prescott under center. Gallup's list of long receptions per game looks like this: 24, 38, 52, 17, 38.
Now in Week 1, he and the Cowboys are 8.5-point dogs against the Bucs, and will likely be forced to the air early and often. While the Bucs have a great pass defense, they were even better against the run last season — especially with a shaky offensive line (due to injuries), the path of least resistance for Dallas will be through the air.
Tampa Bay allowed 46 passes of more than 20 yards last season (just fewer than three per game), and there’s nobody likelier to catch one than the teams leader in aDot. At this line, we only need Gallup to have one catch that exceeds last year's average reception length 54% of the time to have an edge.
I would play this bet down to around -140. Beyond that point, you could switch to BetMGM, where they have the longest reception over 20 at -140.