After a long wait, the National Football League returns tonight with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers opening the 2021 season against the Dallas Cowboys.

Seven months ago, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers raised the Lombardi Trophy at Raymond James Stadium after stunning the football world with a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs as a three-point underdog.

Fast-forward 214 days and the defending champs are set to open the 2021 season in the same stadium as a significant favourite to beat the Dallas Cowboys.

The line for tonight’s game opened at Tampa Bay -6.5.

As of this writing, the Buccaneers are an 8.5-point favourite, signaling strong support for Brady and company.

Here are our best bets for tonight’s kickoff game.

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spread: Tampa Bay -8.5
Total: 51.5

Dom Padula: Tease Bucs -8.5, Rams -7.5 to Bucs -1.5, Rams -0.5

The Buccaneers will be a popular teaser play this week after bettors jumped on them at -6.5.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the Cowboys entering this season, it was a safe bet that the number would move in Tampa Bay’s direction.

Now that it has, I still can’t bring myself to take the points for a potential middle with Dallas.

This will be Dak Prescott’s first game action since last October, and he must face a Buccaneers’ defence that shut down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. 

Prescott has declared himself ready, but my guess is that the Cowboys will want to do their best to protect him in the opener, which should mean relying a little more on Ezekiel Elliott and the run game.

With so many options to pair with the Buccaneers on a teaser (the L.A. Rams and San Francisco 49ers are my favourites), I’ll definitely need Tampa Bay to win tonight.

If I had to place one bet for tonight’s game on its own, I’d tease the Bucs and the under and hope that Brady and company don’t need to do too much in a win. 

Still, I’m not sold that the Cowboys’ defence will be able to slow Brady down, and the fact that I have so many other options for Week 1 means I can be patient.

As for an official recommendation, I’ll tease the Bucs and the Rams as a best bet to place ahead of the opener.

Luke Bellus: Brady Over 2.5 Pass TDs +135

Brady and the Buccaneers were one of the top offences in the league last season and everyone is back in 2021 to do it all over again.

Tampa Bay returns all its starters on offence (and defence) this season, as they look to pick up right where they left off on their way to winning Super Bowl 55.

Last year, Brady threw for three or more touchdowns in seven regular-season games.

He didn’t have a game with less than two scores from Week 11 through the Super Bowl win over the Chiefs.

On the other side of the ball, Dallas had one of the worst secondary units in the league last season. Only five teams gave up more passing touchdowns than the Cowboys did in 2020.

Brady has a passer rating of 95.6 with 1,354 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in five games versus the Cowboys in his career.

Since 2015, he has tossed at least three touchdowns in three of his five Week 1 starts.

I think Tampa Bay’s weapons at wide receiver will simply be too much for this Cowboys secondary to deal with.

Let’s start the season by hitting Brady over 2.5 touchdowns at a great price.