NFL Sunday Night Football Picks, Prediction for Week 1: Buccaneers vs Cowboys Betting Preview (Sept. 11)
Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady (left) and Dak Prescott.
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys Odds
This is a rematch of last year's season-opening thriller, which saw the Buccaneers pull out a 31-29 victory while Dallas covered the 8.5-point spread.
Tom Brady and Dak Prescott combined for 782 passing yards and seven TDs in that game as it flew over the total of 52. Should we expect offense on offense on offense yet again in our first Sunday Night Football picks of the year?
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how the Buccaneers and Cowboys match up statistically:
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys DVOA Breakdown
In the context of last year's matchup, what is most notable is all of the players who had a major impact but won't be on the field this time around. If that game set up as an "over" game, this one most certainly sets up as an "under" game.
Let's start with the missing offensive firepower:
- WR Amari Cooper, DAL: 13 rec, 139 yd, 2 TD
- WR Antonio Brown, TB: 5 rec, 121 yd, 1 TD
- TE Rob Gronkowski, TB: 8 rec, 90 yd, 2 TD
That's already 26 catches, 350 yards, and five TDs worth of production that won't be on the field this time around. Not to mention Chris Godwin (questionable-knee), who went off for 9/105/1 but is iffy coming off a torn ACL. Heck, the Cowboys will even be missing depth players from that game like No. 4 WR Cedrick Wilson and No. 2 TE Blake Jarwin, who combined to efficiently catch 6-of-6 passes for 46 yards. All told, Brady and Prescott could be missing a combined 500 yards of offense from last year's tilt.
But we're not done — now let's talk about who's from a pass protection standpoint (pressure data via PFF):
- LT Tyron Smith, DAL: 62 snaps, 0 pressures, 0 sacks
- LG Connor Williams, DAL: 62 snaps, 0 pressures, 0 sacks
- RT La'el Collins, DAL: 62 snaps, 3 pressures, 0 sacks
- LG Ali Marpet, TB: 50 snaps, 2 pressures, 0 sacks
- C Ryan Jensen, TB: 50 snaps, 0 pressures, 0 sacks
- RG Alex Cappa, TB: 50 snaps, 0 pressures, 0 sacks
That's six offensive lineman who played the entire game while giving up only five pressures and not a single sack. This looms large, as the Bucs (28.6%) and Cowboys (27.6%) finished second and fourth, respectively, in defensive pressure rate last season, according to data from Pro Football Reference.
Smith in particular is a big loss for the Cowboys, as the Cowboys’ average yards per pass attempt drops from 7.8 to 7.1 while their average yards per rush falls from 4.8 to 4.1 and their sack percentage jumps from 4.2% to 6.2%, according to ESPN Stats and Info. But don't discount the impact of an all-new interior line for Brady, as the 45-year-old has been most vulnerable to interior pressure throughout his career.
So yeah, this game is a good bet to have a bit of a different look to it than the fantasy-point bonanza we saw from these two teams last year. These teams were the NFL's two fastest pace teams in neutral situations last year, per Football Outsiders, but I would expect that to slow down with both teams working in a mix of rookies and journeymen to replace top-end talent along their offensive lines. We should expect Tampa Bay to run since Dallas' biggest vulnerability on defense is defending the ground game.
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich spun Brady's much-publicized absence from camp as a positive because they got to work on the run game more. And we should expect the Cowboys to return to more 12 personnel, which they were forced to abandon once Jarwin was lost to injury.
The prop market is telling. It's Week 1, when bettors love to smash overs, yet Brady's passing prop sits at 274.5 and Prescott's, 268.5. That signals the market is expecting 239 combined passing yards fewer than last game, and as we all know, nothing is more efficient than passing when it comes to scoring points in the NFL.
These teams are missing nearly five football fields worth of receiving yardage from the last matchup. They're replacing six offensive lineman who played 336 combined snaps without a sack allowed in that contest. And both teams have pass defenses that finished top-10 in DVOA and top-five in pressure.
According to our Action Labs data, Primetime unders with a total of 49 or higher are 100-76-2 (56%) since 2004, covering by an average of 1.4 points per game.
We can always count on a bit of Brady inflation in the total in these types of games. When Brady is in primetime with a total of 49 or higher, the under is 14-10 (58%), covering by an average of 3.0 points per game.