The NFL Returns: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Begin Super Bowl Defense Against Dallas Cowboys

The NFL offseason is a long one. From mid-February until the start of training camp in late July, all we had was the drama surrounding Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and the constant conversation around COVID, vaccines, and the NFL’s protocols for the unvaccinated. It was exhausting. 

And while COVID will certainly play a role in the 2021 season, we can finally get down to football. Opening night of the 2021 regular season is upon us. 

The NFL has granted us an extra game this year — teams will play 17 games as opposed to 16 — and the defending Super Bowl Champions open their season at home against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night on NBC at 8:20 p.m. ET. 

At 44-years of age, Tom Brady returns for an incredible 21st season as the Bucs attempt to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since Brady’s New England Patriots did so in 2003-2004. They return all 22 starters from last season’s team, and a full offseason of Brady learning Bruce Arians’ offense is a scary thought for the rest of the NFL. 

It was an eventful offseason for the Bucs and general manager Jason Licht, managing to re-sign six starters from the Super Bowl-winning team. 

“And we kinda found that during this process, that everybody wanted to be here,” Licht said. “I don’t want to say they took discounts, but it wasn’t as difficult as it would be if we were coming off a 9-7 year, that’s for sure. They all wanted to be here. They all love playing for this coach. They all love playing with the quarterback and with each other.” 

The NFL has never seen this type of continuity — all 22 starters returning from a Super Bowl-winning team — which is certainly a reason why Tampa Bay has the second best odds of winning Super Bowl 56 behind the Kansas City Chiefs. 

“Now that they have an understanding of each other, you see us having more success just by them knowing each other and knowing what each other are going to do in certain situations,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said.

For the Cowboys, they enter a season filled with unknowns. 

Head coach Mike McCarthy enters his second season in Big D, and he has a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn who will be tasked with turning around a defense that ranked 23rd in the league in 2020 in yards per game.

Offensively, the Cowboys are banking on their franchise quarterback bouncing back from his brutal ankle injury sustained in week five of the 2020 season. He’s the owner of a brand new four-year, $160 million contract, and the Cowboys have surrounded him with a wealth of offensive talent. 

“So much has happened to me in the past two years I wouldn’t say I ever thought I was invincible, or didn’t realize how vulnerable I was or how precious life is, to be honest with you,” Prescott said. “I am thankful for every moment. When I talk about these small victories, that is just me being thankful for every moment that I have, not taking anything for granted. … That is part of my mindset that allows me to be here.” 

Owner Jerry Jones is not a patient man, and now that he’s paid his quarterback, winning is the only option. 

We’ll get our first look Thursday night of both teams. The NFL has returned, and we’re here for every bit of it.

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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