Buccaneers vs. Cowboys NFL Week 1 Sunday Night Football Picks: Injury Concerns for Both Teams

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Quarterback Will Grier #15 of the Dallas Cowboys scrambles with the ball against the Seattle Seahawks. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP.

The first Sunday night game of the new NFL season is about as marquee a matchup as possible as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit the Dallas Cowboys.

Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

Sunday, September 11, 2022 – 08:20 PM EDT at AT&T Stadium 

NFL fans can’t possibly ask for a better matchup for the first Sunday night game of the new season as it features the league’s biggest star by far in Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting the league’s most popular team by far in the Dallas Cowboys.

Honestly, even though it’s only Week 1, I fully expect this game to be among the Top 5 most-wagered in the 2022 regular season and among the Top 5 most-watched on US television. 

Quick side note on the TV angle with NBC having the telecast: Former lead play-by-play guy Al Michaels left for Amazon Prime, so Mike Tirico takes over next to Cris Collinsworth.

Melissa Stark will handle the sideline reporting responsibilities, making her Sunday Night Football debut. If you care about such things. 

Previous Season Stats

If Bucs-Cowboys in Week 1 seems familiar, that’s because they also opened the 2021 season in Tampa in the Kickoff Game. The Bucs hosted as defending Super Bowl champions and were 10-point favorites but were fairly lucky to win 31-29 considering Tampa Bay had four turnovers.

Ryan Succop kicked a 36-yard field goal with two seconds left. Brady threw for 379 yards and 4 scores, but was picked twice. Dak Prescott had 403 yards and 3 scores for Dallas. It was an incredibly entertaining game

The underdog has covered the NFL odds in the past five in this series. 

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Brady’s Final Opener? 

We mentioned above that the Bucs won last year’s prime-time matchup but failed to cover.

What’s going on with Brady in games that start at 7 p.m. ET or later? He is 1-9 against the spread with Tampa Bay in those games and a passer rating of 81.8 compared to 21-8 ATS in all other games with a passer rating of 108.5. Weird. 

How Long Will Brady Stay?

He of course retired this offseason and if you read the gossip pages, he and supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen apparently are in a bit of a tiff because Brady unretired. That’s supposedly why Brady took 11 days off from training camp.

He’s got a massive payday waiting for him at Fox to be that network’s No. 1 analyst, so I do think this will be his final season. At 45, Brady will become the oldest starting QB in NFL history.  

Brady won’t have future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski to throw to as Gronk retired, although some think he may return later in the season. Tampa Bay did add another future Hall of Famer in free agency in receiver Julio Jones.

Pro Bowl wideout Chris Godwin tore his ACL last season and it’s not clear if he will be for Week 1. Godwin leads the Bucs with 3,276 receiving yards since 2019. 

What About the Offensive?

The big question is the offensive line, which saw Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet surprisingly retired this offseason and the Bucs lost Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen early in camp to an injury that might keep him out the rest of the season.

Not counting his move from New England to Tampa Bay, this will be only the second time in Brady’s career he will have three different starters on the interior of the offensive line from one season opener to another. If Brady has one weakness, it’s when pressure comes up the middle.  

Cowboys With Own Injury Issues 

BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review), one of BMR’s top-rated books, offers a prop on the first NFL coach to be fired/resign. Carolina’s Matt Rhule is the +350 favorite, and he should be with a 10-23 mark in the pros. The Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy is next at +500.

On the surface, that seems strange considering Dallas comes off a 12-5 season and NFC East title, but the team was upset 23-17 at home in the Divisional Round by San Francisco, and McCarthy was frankly outcoached in a big way by the Niners’ Kyle Shanahan.  

There are two potential head coach replacements on McCarthy’s staff in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and owner Jerry Jones is known to love former Saints head coach and one-time Cowboys assistant Sean Payton. 

Tyron Smith

We mentioned above that Tampa has offensive line injury issues and so does Dallas as eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith suffered a serious hamstring injury recently and is out months, the hope is maybe he can be back perhaps by Thanksgiving. 

In the past two seasons when Smith played, the Cowboys averaged 4.8 yards per carry, 7.8 yards per pass attempt and had a QB sack percentage of 4.2. In the 20 he missed those numbers were: 4.1, 7.1 and 6.2. 

Smith has the highest run block win rate (78.6%) over the past four seasons in the NFL (minimum 900 run block plays). 

Tyler Smith

First-round rookie Tyler Smith had been playing guard in camp until the Tyron Smith injury but now will start at left tackle, which he did play in college.

“Will we pay some price for it? Yes. Can we win with him paying a price? I think so, yes,” Jones said of having to go with the rookie over the Pro Bowler. 

Jalen Tolbert

Dallas also has issues at receiver as projected Nos. 2 and 3 Michael Gallup and James Washington are out for Week 1, Washington will miss a minimum of the first four games. Rookie Jalen Tolbert will be thrust into a big role as the Bucs will surely double team CeeDee Lamb.

I expect perhaps a more run-heavy attack with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard and for Pollard to also be used as a receiver plenty. 

Score Prediction and NFL Picks

If I had asked for one game NOT to preview in Week 1, it probably would have been this because there are so many question marks on both sides and it’s basically a pick’em in my mind.

The Cowboys were an NFL-best 13-4 against the spread last season and they are home so that’s the NFL pick

Score Prediction: Cowboys 27 - Bucs 26 

NFL Pick: Cowboys +1.5 (-105) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Cowboys +1.5 (-105)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.