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NFL

Buccaneers host Cowboys as NFL returns

The NFL is back. Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Dallas Cowboys from Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night.

The game will mark the first of the 2021-22 NFL regular season as all 32 of the league’s teams will take the field this week. 28 teams will be in action on Sunday, followed by a Monday night matchup featuring the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders.

Buccaneers bring back championship core

The Buccaneers come into the new season with all 22 starters from last season’s championship run on the roster. The 11-5 Bucs finished the 2020-21 regular season with NFL’s third-best offense and eighth-best defense.

“We have a lot of continuity. We have a lot of things to build on and a lot more experience together,” Brady said, speaking about the Buccaneers’ roster. “That’s really all you can ask for as players is to be in the position that we’re in. I’d just like us to go out and take advantage of that.”

Cowboys look to bounce back

Dallas comes off a down year that saw the club go 6-10 and miss the playoffs. Starting quarterback Dak Prescott will make his return to action after missing most of last year with a right ankle injury. Prescott suffered the injury in a week five game against the New York Giants. The 28-year-old is not shying away from the daunting task at hand: a week one meeting with the defending champions.

“I’m definitely ready,” Prescott said. “I love it the way it is (and) wouldn’t want it any other way, to be honest. I love night games. Love playing on prime time. I think it’s just set for the perfect stage. Them coming off the Super Bowl title, and us, having fans back to full capacity, I think this is what the NFL and the world needs.”

In the history books

The 2021-22 campaign will serve as Brady’s 22nd NFL season, and Thursday night’s home opener will mark his 300th regular season start. The seven-time Super Bowl champion will become the only player in NFL history to reach such a milestone, with Brett Favre trailing just behind at 298.

Players to watch

Antonio Brown (TB): Brown has proven to be one of the premiere talents in the NFL, at the wide receiver position. The 33-year-old spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before losing his job due to some off-the-field issues. He joined the Buccaneers last season and has seemed to have found a home in Tampa, appearing in eight games and racking up 483 receiving yards.

Brown is set at 6.75 to register 100+ receiving yards in a Buccaneers win.

Ezekial Elliott (DAL): Elliott has put up remarkable numbers in three of his five NFL seasons, but is coming off a down year, with his starting quarterback absent from week five on. He finished with a modest 979 rushing yards, after eclipsing the 1300-yard mark in his previous two seasons, and 1631 in his rookie campaign. The young star is looking forward to the opportunity to get back on track, against the Buccaneers.

“I’m definitely excited to kinda start a new chapter so I can kinda redeem myself from last year. Just excited to get back out there and put my best work on film,” said the sixth-year running back.

You can return 17 times your wager if Elliott rushes for 100+ yards in a Cowboys win.

Odds

Money Line: Cowboys 4.70 | Buccaneers 1.22

Spread: Cowboys (+9) 1.90 | Buccaneers (-9) 1.90

Over/Under: Over (52) 1.89 | Under (52) 1.92

*All odds subject to change