Are you ready for some football? The NFL recently released its 2021 schedules as teams learned who they play each week this upcoming season. For fans of the Dallas Cowboys, they get to see their team kickoff the entire 2021 NFL campaign, as Dallas plays Tom Brady and the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the league’s first game of the year. While the beginning of every season is exciting, this one means a little more to the Cowboy faithful as it marks the return of franchise quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott hasn’t played since Oct. 11, 2020, and he recently shared his honest thoughts on going against Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 1.
The Dallas Cowboys play Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 1
The NFL released its 2021 schedule on May 12, and the league revealed that Tom Brady and his Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off the new season with a game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 9.
The game will be the Buccaneers’ first since winning the Super Bowl over the Kansas City Chiefs, while it will be the Cowboys’ first game since their Week 17 loss to the New York Giants last season.
On paper, this looks like a colossal mismatch as the Buccaneers are returning all their starters from their championship-winning team, and the Cowboys went 6-10 in 2020. Prescott, though, missed the majority of the season after going down in Week 5 against the Giants, so him being on the field alone gives the Cowboys a better chance of pulling off the massive upset.
After playing the Buccaneers, the Cowboys travel to play the LA Chargers in Week 2 before hosting a couple of NFC East rivals in two of their next three games in the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 27 and the Giants on Oct. 10. Dallas also hosts the Carolina Panthers in between those games on Oct. 3.
However, before we get too far, how does Prescott feel about making his NFL return against Brady and the Buccaneers?
Dak Prescott shared his thoughts on playing Tom Brady and the Buccaneers
Of course, every team wants to beat the Buccaneers this season. Winning the Super Bowl puts a massive target on them. However, this Week 1 matchup for Prescott has nothing to do with who the Cowboys are playing.
“I’m excited to get back on the field,” Prescott said of playing the Buccaneers to ESPN’s Ed Werder. “This game means more than the opponent and their rings.”
It looks like Prescott doesn’t care who the Cowboys play; he’s just ready to get back on the field with his teammates. That’s totally understandable as his season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 last season was devastating. It also derailed the Cowboys’ season.
Dallas finished 17th in the NFL with 24.7 points per game in 2020. In the games Prescott played in, though, the Cowboys averaged 32.6 points per game. They also lost four straight and six of their next seven after seeing their QB go down, which led to their 6-10 record.
So, with Prescott back on the field, can the Cowboys become a winning team again in 2021?
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have one of the easiest schedules in football
Playing in a weak division like the NFC East is probably a huge factor in this, but according to ESPN, the Cowboys have one of three easiest schedules in 2021. The other two teams with cupcake opponents are the Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons.
While that should certainly help the Cowboys turn things around, it still won’t be easy to become a respectable team again. They were 28th in the NFL in points allowed per game in 2020 with 29.6, and while their defense improved this offseason through free agency with guys like Keanu Neal and in the draft with Micah Parsons, it won’t just become a top 10 unit overnight.
According to ESPN, Vegas has the Cowboys’ win total at 9.5 games, which is just a little over .500 thanks to the NFL’s new 17-game schedule. While that doesn’t sound too impressive, it’s still much better than last year’s performance and could even get them to the playoffs in a weak NFC East.
Overall, for the Cowboys to find success in 2021, they must win against their NFC East rivals and try not to fall to other mediocre teams like the Falcons, Panthers, and Las Vegas Raiders.
If they can do that — and maybe get a game against one their tougher opponents like the Buccaneers, Chiefs, and New Orleans Saints — Prescott and the Cowboys could be back in the playoffs in 2021.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference