Cue the Hank Williams Jr!
So what if it’s been almost 10 years since a dust up between Bocephus and ESPN ended ‘Are You Ready For Some Football’ kicking off the Monday Night Football games. And so what if tonight’s game is on NBC, and that it’s actually Thursday. That song will forever be the rallying cry for the beginning of football season.
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL
Kickoff set for 8:20 this evening on NBC for the 2021 NFL season will have the Dallas Cowboys visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There are some issues I have with the NFL, but those are mostly superficial or of a personal taste, but this tradition that started in 2004 where the reigning Super Bowl champions host the opening night game is one of the best in all of sports. The champs get one more day of celebration. The city gets a day packed full of events. And the eyes of the football world focus in just one place.
Tom Brady has been on this stage 5 previous times. Tonight, his 6th time, give us all one more chance to revel in his greatness. For quite a long time I was in the ranks of Brady haters. Hated seeing the pretty boy with a supermodel wife with a fist full of rings dominate year after year. Then it’s almost as a switch flipped. He is simply the best and instead of waiting until he retired to only look back at his accomplishments I decided I wanted to enjoy seeing the best QB to ever play the game. Why not get some enjoyment out of seeing him being the best at the most scrutinized position in all of sports? It is a thing of beauty to watch Tom Brady with the ball. Dude is a winner. He’s simply amazing.
7 times a Super Bowl champion. Came out of nowhere with no expectations to replace injured Drew Bledsoe, the 6th round pick was only supposed to keep the Patriots treading water until Bledsoe returned. Thankfully Bledsoe got a few more years starting for the Bills and Cowboys or else he’d be the NFL’s Wally Pipp.
Across the field Brady will see America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. When I step back and view the Cowboys through the same lens as I’m doing with Brady, I respect the team. I watched some truly great Cowboys teams in the 90’s. They move the needle. You don’t have the top valued franchise in all of sports at $5.7 billion if there isn’t something to the team. One hell of a fan base. Matched only by the legions of Cowboy haters.
So let’s get down to the game why don’t we. Tom Brady is the best QB ever because he wins, not necessarily because of his stats. He’s not a 37-48 for 397 yards 4 TDs and 0 picks guy. Only 11 of 21 years he’s thrown for more than 4000 yards. Only had over 40 TDs in a season twice. This is all during the time of pass happy offenses. He ain’t a stats guy, he’s a wins guy. He’s effective. I’ll take a smart, effective, winner over 5000 yards and 45 TDs because, well, wins are what matter.
The Cowboys defense was not great last year. 5th worst in the NFL. And they didn’t do much in the off-season to prove to me they will be much better. I see where they have a new defensive coach in Dan Quinn (Who? Yeah I know. I have a much bigger file on Wally Pipp than Dan Quinn). But can he coax more out of a bad defense that needs to do more to take some pressure off Dak Prescott and the offense. The NFC East is winnable for the Cowboys and it’s going to hinge on weather or not their D can just not be horrible.
Offensively they can gunsling with Prescott tossing to a top 5 receiving corps with Lamb, Cooper, and Gallup. Toss in Ezekiel Elliott, who I love as a running back when his QB can throw the ball to some greats outside and get freed up because of it, and if Dak stays healthy you could see them be top on that side of the ball. But I don’t see it in Dak for the start of the season. I think he should have played at least a handful of series in the preseason. His first live action in almost a year is in the most unforgiving of circumstances.
Chief among those unforgiving of circumstances stands a Buccaneers defense bringing everyone back from the Super Bowl where they shut down Patrick Mahomes, the young QB leading a new era of QBs. A defense that gets to practice against the best and that wants to do their part to not let Brady and the offense down. Just another Brady intangible, making the side of the ball he doesn’t even play on better!
I simply don’t like this game for the Cowboys. If it were week 4 with none of the pomp and circumstance and bright lights and Dak had some reps under him post injury and the defense could have had a little time to gel, then maybe I’d call it a closer game. I don’t see Brady and the Bucs exactly copying last year because he has always evolved in an effort to make film on him not matter much. They could decide to go run heavy and throw everyone completely off. I wouldn’t be surprised at anything they do.
My prediction for tonight’s opener, this one’s easy. Brady shines, Tampa’s defense keeps a rusty looking Dak and his receivers in check, the Cowboys defense shows some improvements but cannot contain Tampa on their Super Bowl winners celebration night. Tampa Bay 31 and Dallas 17