Both teams enter Week 1’s showdown, nursing several injuries, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay will be without Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen (knee) and left guard Aaron Stinnie (ACL/MCL), while both wideouts Chris Godwin (ACL recovery) and Russell Gage (hamstring) are questionable. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are missing All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith (hamstring), wide receiver James Washington (foot), and will likely also be without fellow wideout Michael Gallup, who continues to recover from last season’s ACL tear.
The injuries on the offensive line are particularly noteworthy, as both Brady and Prescott could find themselves under duress for much of the evening. As NFL fans know, the key to beating a Brady-led squad is the ability to generate consistent pressure up front. The Cowboys certainly have the talent to do that in last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons and two-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Lawrence. If Brady isn’t afforded enough time in the pocket, it could be a rough opener for the Bucs’ offense.
The same can be said for Dallas, who will call upon 2022 first-rounder Tyler Smith to man the left tackle position, at least until the newly-signed Jason Peters is up to speed. Smith was penalized 25 times over his last 21 games at Tulsa and will be tested immediately by Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl pass rusher Shaq Barrett. How Smith ultimately performs will go a long way towards the Cowboys finding success Sunday night.
Having said that, as he has shown time and time again throughout his Hall of Fame career, it is difficult to bet against Brady, no matter the circumstances. Thus, I’ll roll with the Bucs to squeak by the ‘Boys in a close, entertaining affair.
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