TNF Preview: Cowboys @ Buccaneers
We finally made it folks. It's Week 1. Football is back and all is right with the world. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Welcome back football and welcome back fantasy players. Let’s get to it!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Overview:
The reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers lead off their 2021 season against the Dallas Cowboys, which is likely one of their easiest matchups of the year. Tom Brady is back for his age 44 season and after ending all debates on who the GOAT really is, looks to make one more run at the Lombardi. After being the first team to ever win the Super Bowl and return all 22 starters, the Bucs believe another title run is well within reach. Let’s see how they match up against Dak & Company in the season opener.
Tom Brady – The greatest quarterback to ever play the game gets a juicy matchup in week 1. In Dallas’ final 3 games of 2020, they allowed 281.7 passing yards per game (9th most) to the likes of Jimmy G, Daniel Jones, and rookie Jalen Hurts. Safe to say that TB12 is a better passer than each of those guys meanwhile Dallas did little to nothing to improve that brutal secondary. If Tom can keep pace with his 2020, where he averaged 290 pass yds/gm and 2.5 TDs/gm, he’s a lock to finish inside the top 10 this week.
Projected Fantasy Points: 21.2
All Bucs WRs – If you believe in Brady this week then it makes sense to also believe in one of the most elite groups of pass-catchers in the league. Both Evans and Godwin are high-end WR2’s this week who could easily vault into WR1 territory. Antonio Brown is a likely flex starter most weeks but could see WR2 numbers if this one turns into a shootout. Something worth noting; after AB came back from his suspension last season, he led the Bucs WRs in targets. Could see a relatively even split in target share between these three throughout the season.
Projected Fantasy Points: 17.4 (Godwin)
Projected Fantasy Points: 16.4 (Evans)
Projected Fantasy Points: 13.3 (Brown)
Gio Bernard – A change of scenery this offseason for the veteran scatback, landed Bernard in the sunshine state. While this game could very well be a shootout, which would favor Bernard’s skill set, the likely scenario is that the Bucs get up early and then run the rock with RoJo and Fournette. This paired with the high ankle sprain he suffered recently is enough for me to fade him this week.
Projected Fantasy Points: 7.1
Ronald Jones – After an up and down season in 2020, “RoJo” enters a contract year as the 1A in the Bucs backfield to Leonard Fournette’s 1B. When both were healthy last year, Jones was the RB you wanted, despite Playoff Lenny’s end-of-year run. With the expectations that this game gets out of hand quickly for the Cowboys, it's likely that Jones sees a significant workload and could fall into the endzone, giving him flex appeal. (FYI – don’t forget, never put Thursday night players in your flex!)
Projected Fantasy Points: 8.8
Chris Godwin (quad) – Godwin was added to the injury report Tuesday afternoon after logging a limited session. As he did not appear on the Monday injury report, it is likely something occurred in practice. He should be good to go but you never like to see a player get worse over the course of the week. Wednesday’s injury report will be something to monitor.
Antonio Brown (knee) – Brown appeared on Monday’s report as a full participant, but still was noted as having a knee injury. He was downgraded to a DNP on Tuesday, and it is unclear if this was due to his knee or if he was given a veteran rest day. Keep an eye on this one as well.
Gio Bernard (ankle) – Gio suffered what was deemed a “mild high ankle sprain” two weeks ago but has been given the nod to play in Thursday’s matchup barring any setbacks. Another reason to avoid the vet as these high ankle sprains can linger into the season as we saw last year with CMC.
Dallas Cowboys Overview:
The stars of the 2021 season of Hard Knocks are in for about as tough a matchup as they could ask for in week 1. Dallas finally gets their franchise QB back, but they also get to start their season off on the road against the defense that shut down Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying KC offense in Super Bowl 55. Not exactly ideal for the Boys. The story of the offseason has been all about Dak and his health after that gruesome ankle injury suffered in week 5 last year. He appears to be all systems go. Hopefully, we can see this offense return to early-season form as it was fireworks from the get-go in 2020.
Dak Prescott – One of the strongest candidates for Comeback Player of the Year, Dak is fully healthy and ready to roll after a brief absence from training camp following a shoulder injury. While this is a tough matchup, this is a case where you simply “start your studs”. Between his rushing and passing, Dak has one of the highest floors amongst all QBs. Prescott scored three rushing TDs last year in 4 full games played, providing a very safe floor paired with his elite passing volume and he’s a lock to finish inside the top 10 most weeks.
Projected Fantasy Points: 21.8
CeeDee Lamb – In four full games with Dak last year, Lamb average 7.25 targets per game, 5.25 receptions per game, and eclipsed 100 yards or scored a TD in half of those games. All of that without any training camp or preseason. Lamb is a special talent and a popular breakout candidate in 2021. With Amari Cooper potentially seeing shadow coverage from Carlton Davis, CeeDee will likely see Sean Murphey-Bunting or slot corner Ross Cockrell. He should feast as these two are significantly less talented than Davis. I prefer Lamb to Cooper this week solely because of the likely shadow coverage Cooper will see.
Projected Fantasy Points: 16.7
Ezekiel Elliott – Okay so you’re definitely not sitting Zeke in week 1. You likely used a first-round pick on him, and you probably don’t have better options. However, between the brutal matchup and starting RG Zack Martin being placed on the COVID/Reserve list earlier this week, expectations need to be tempered. The Bucs allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in 2020 at just 80.6 and just 3.6 YPC. All defensive starters are returning. From week 6 on Zeke averaged just 3.97 ypc and only eclipsed 80 rushing yards twice. You’re still starting him, and his immense volume keeps his floor high, but his ceiling is capped. He’s an easy fade in DFS formats given his cost.
Projected Fantasy Points: 17.2
Michael Gallup – Gallup was a bit boom-bust in 2020 with the majority of targets being siphoned off to Lamb and Cooper. However, he will still be on the field a ton and we expect the Cowboys to have to throw a lot to keep up with Tampa. In 16 games last year he only fell below an 80% snap share twice. He’ll be on the field, and he will likely see the Bucs’ 3rd best corner most of the time as all of the attention will be on Lamb and Cooper. He’s likely not startable in standard 10 team leagues, but in super deep leagues and DFS he is a great dart throw.
Projected Fantasy Points: 12.9
No Notable Injuries
A mostly cloudy evening with a chance of scattered thunderstorms. Steady wind at 12 MPH and gusts up to 17 MPH. Unlikely to play a major role in this one, but Florida weather can change at any moment so things could shift between now and kickoff.
Buccaneers: Ronald Jones explodes for 100+ all-purpose yards and 2 TDs.
Cowboys: Amari Cooper scores fewer than 10 fantasy points (projected for 16.7).
Expected Game Results:
The Buccaneers should be up early in this one as they pose one of the league's best all-around rosters. Expect a high-scoring game and Brady to continue his high level of play and eclipse 300 passing yards and multiple TDs. Plan to see a lot of Ronald Jones and Fournette in the 2nd half. The Cowboys will be left playing catchup most of the game and will eventually be forced to abandon the run.
The O/U is set at 51.5 with the Bucs as 7.5-point favorites. I’ll take the over just by a hair here and the Bucs at -7.5.
Fantasy Scouts Pick: Buccaneers W, 31-21