From a betting perspective: Breaking down Cowboys vs. Buccaneers

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Yahoo Sportsbook is breaking down all the angles for Thursday’s NFL kickoff between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The host Bucs are favored by 8.5 and the over/under is 51.5.

Joe Garza: The spread opened at 6, but the total has moved down to 51.5 after opening at 52. The storylines are obvious: Tom Brady’s age, the potential for a Bucs Super Bowl hangover, Cowboys guard Zack Martin missing the game due to COVID-19 and Dak Prescott’s return from injury. But I’ll be focused on Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, his game plan and the decisions he makes. I think the Cowboys are overrated, as usual, and if McCarthy coaches like a donkey, I’ll view them as fade material more often than not as the season wears on.

Pete Truszkowski: I agree with Joe for the most part in considering the Cowboys a team I’d look to fade more often than not. However, for some reason, I see the backdoor wide open in this one. I would not be shocked if the Bucs had a comfortable two-score lead late and then Dak leads a meaningless touchdown drive in the final minutes to get the backdoor cover. If I had to pick a side, I’d probably take the eight points just for that reason.

My favorite way to attack this game though is probably through the prop market, and in particular with Dak. I expect Tampa Bay to score at will, meaning the Cowboys will be playing from behind most of the night. Additionally, the Bucs are stout against the run, so I can see Dallas moving away from Zeke Elliott early on. Dak threw for over 400 yards three times in four complete games last season. With the possibility of compiling garbage time stats again, Dak over 293.5 passing yards seems like a good bet to me.

FOXBOROUGH, MA - NOVEMBER 24: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott talk after the Patriots defeated the Cowboys 13-9 at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots host the Dallas Cowboys for a Sunday afternoon football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Nov. 24, 2019. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Dak Prescott and Tom Brady faced off on Nov. 24, 2019. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Nick Bromberg: Super Bowl champs started hosting the Thursday night opener in 2004. In the 16 openers featuring the defending champs at home — the Bears hosted the Packers in 2019 to kick off the NFL’s 100-year celebration — the road team has won just twice. The Cowboys beat the Giants in 2012 and the Chiefs beat the Patriots in 2017. There’s a historical reason why the Cowboys are +310 on the money line.

Seven of those 16 games have also featured the home team winning by two or more possessions. If you’re betting the Bucs -8.5, you’re thinking the trend is going to move to eight out of 17. And I think that’s the way to go. If this weren’t the Cowboys, the line is probably nine or 10 points. With so many questions surrounding Dak Prescott’s shoulder, and a Tampa Bay defensive line well-equipped to take advantage of Zack Martin, go with the home team here and don’t be surprised if it’s an easy cover like the 2020 opener between the Chiefs and Texans.

Greg Brainos: There are a couple of player props I like in this game.

My favorite is Ezekiel Elliott at +275 to record 5-plus receptions and 10 -plus rushing attempts. First of all, Zeke hasn’t had less than 10 rushing attempts since Week 2 of 2017, so let’s go ahead and lock that in. As for the receptions, a number of factors could contribute to him getting 5-plus catches, like the fact that Zack Martin is out and Dak might have to dump the ball off more because he’s getting pressured all night by Tampa’s monstrous front seven, or if the Cowboys fall behind by multiple scores like we expect them to and they’re dinking and dunking their way up the field. I mean, even in a regular game script, Zeke could catch five balls.

Antonio Brown dominated Bucs training camp, prompting Bruce Arians and others to say that it’s the best he’s looked in years. That’s scary. Like, “hide your kids, hide your wife”-level scary. When he lines up in the slot tonight, it’ll be against the Cowboys’ worst cornerback, Jourdan Lewis. When Lewis was playing college ball at Michigan in 2016, he called himself “a little Antonio Brown,” and I can’t help but think that the real Antonio Brown knows that. I like Brown at +800 to be the first Bucs touchdown scorer tonight.

Frank Schwab: I don’t think this game deserves to have the highest spread on the Week 1 board. I don’t particularly love fading the Bucs or backing Mike McCarthy, but Cowboys +8.5 is the only way I’d play this one tonight. If there’s a prop I like best it’s the over on CeeDee Lamb's 62.5 receiving yards. We all know he’s going to have a big year, so let’s get the party started.

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