The 2021 NFL season kicks off Thursday night with a matchup between the defending Super Bowl champions and America’s Team. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys in the highly anticipated first game of Week 1.

Coming off their title run, the Bucs are the betting favorites to win the NFC. Dallas is the NFC East favorite, though they are far from a surefire playoff contender after finishing with a 6-10 record last season.

Tom Brady and the Bucs are favored by 7.5 points over Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, according to the latest betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook. The over/under is 51.5.

Tampa Bay is all but certain to be among the NFL’s best teams for a second straight year. The Bucs are returning all 22 starters from their Super Bowl roster. Brady could be even better in 2021 now that he’s spent a year in Tampa Bay and is experienced in coach Bruce Arians’ system.

The Bucs finished the 2020 regular season on a four-game winning streak. Tampa Bay defeated Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes consecutively in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl.

It’s hard to take much stock in the Cowboys’ 2020 campaign since Prescott missed the final 11 games with an ankle injury. The quarterback didn’t play in the preseason because of a shoulder strain. If Prescott isn’t limited, Dallas’ offense should be one of the league’s best units. The same can’t be said for the Cowboys’ defense.

Only four teams allowed more points than Dallas in the 2020 season. The Cowboys surrendered a 100.4 passer rating, despite facing a slew of bad NFC East quarterbacks.

Unless Dallas’ draft picks make a significant impact right away, the defense could be near the bottom of the league, once again.

Between the defense, and to some extent the health of Prescott and the offensive line (Six-time Pro-Bowl guard Zack Martin won't play after testing positive for COVID-19), the Cowboys have some major questions heading into Week 1. There are no such concerns about the Bucs.

Brady remains one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. The 44-year-old is surrounded with better weapons than almost any signal-caller. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski are all back in the fold.

Tampa Bay had a top-10 defense in last year’s regular season. The unit held Mahomes and the Chiefs without a touchdown, a seemingly impossible task, in their last game.

The Super Bowl champs should pick up where they left off to start the 2021 season.

Prediction: Tampa Bay over Dallas, 34-23

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin the 2021 NFL season with a home opener against the Dallas Cowboys
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin the 2021 NFL season with a home opener against the Dallas Cowboys GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Patrick Smith