The next season of the NFL is several months away, and nobody knows what thrills and spills it will involve when it arrives. We do already know that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make a little bit of history, though. For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Bucs will take part in the NFL Kickoff Game when they welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Florida on Thursday, September 9th.
The team has been waiting a long time for the chance to appear on the ceremonial stage that the Kickoff Game represents. The game has been a fixture in the NFL season since 2002, but the Bucs have somehow managed to remain overlooked for it for almost twenty years until finally getting their moment in the spotlight this time around. Form guides can usually be thrown out of the window for these games, but history suggests that fans of the team can probably look forward to a victory. The defending Super Bowl champions have appeared in sixteen NFL Kick Off games since 2002, and only three of them have lost.
Aside from the ceremony of the game itself, spectators will also be treated to the awesome sight of Tom Brady taking to the field against Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys. This has only happened once before in Brady’s whole career, and that was in 2019 when he was still plying his trade at the New England Patriots. He was a winner that day, and he’ll be hoping for more of the same this time around. The Bucs record against Prescott, however, isn’t good. He’s only played against them twice – once in 2016 and once in 2018 – and wound up as losers on both occasions.
If the Cowboys are to wind up on the winning side this time, their new players are going to have to gel together to form a cohesive partnership quickly and hit the ground running. They’re missing six of their key players from last season, whereas the Bucs have retained every single starting player from their Super Bowl win. The fixture proved to be an almost-perfect launching point for the Kansas City Chiefs last year. After beating the Houston Texans, they made it all the way to the Super Bowl before eventually falling victim to the unstoppable Bucs. It therefore falls on the Bucs to go one better this time around.
While the Bucs have never played in a Kick Off game before, Tom Brady has. His illustrious career has taken in no less than four of them, three of which he’s won. His most recent outing, though, was a defeat. Brady won in 2004, 2005, and 2015 but went down to the Chiefs in 2017. All of that happened during his time with New England. He, like the rest of his Tampa teammates, will be breaking new ground in 2021. In truth, so will every other team and player in this year’s NFL. This is the first time in history that every team involved in the competition will play a full schedule of seventeen games during the regular season.
While this news gives fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers something to look forward to, our colleagues at the Tampa Bay Times are concerned for the long-term future of the franchise. They see a potential warning for the future in the shape of the ongoing furore about where the Oakland Athletics will play their baseball in the future. The argument has been going on for years, and the MLB’s latest solution is to formally grant the Athletics permission to consider moving to another city. In other words, they’re pushing the problem onto Oakland. Either accommodate the baseball team or face the risk of the baseball team upping sticks and going somewhere else. Nobody can fail to see parallels between that situation and the prolonged debate over the Bucs desire to build a new stadium. The piece has more to do with the Tampa Bay Rays than it does with the Bucs, but that’s not to say that it couldn’t become relevant if the Bucs’ long-held wish to move away from Raymond James Stadium isn’t granted soon. It’s much easier to move an NFL team than it is an MLB team, and the fact that the Bucs have been in Tampa Bay for so long ultimately won’t mean anything if push comes to shove.
Whether or not the Glazer family would take the step of moving the Bucs is another matter. They’ve only recently been on the receiving end of loud and sustained criticism in England for their handling of their English Premier League soccer team Manchester United. The family wanted to take the club into a European Soccer League free from the prospect of relegation or the risk of penalisation for poor performance. That concept is alien to English sports fans, who prefer the drama of knowing that any team could lose its elite status off the back of one bad season, and any hungry smaller team can climb the ranks and compete with the big boys at the top. Angering sports fans on both sides of the Atlantic would be a stress that the family could presumably do without in the present moment. The Glazers were ultimately forced to back down to placate Manchester United’s fans. That suggests Bucs fans could achieve a similar result if the threat of losing the team ever manifested itself.
As for what we should expect from the season ahead, who can say? The NFL may not have promotion and relegation, but it always has drama. There’s a reason why the Gridiron Glory online slots game is so popular – it’s a perfect metaphor for the sports it’s based on. When you log into that slot at Rose Slots New Zealand and spin the reels, you have no idea what’s going to happen next. You might hit a big win instantly. Alternatively, you could still be waiting for your first win hours down the line after spending most of your bankroll. You need a little more money to successfully run an NFL franchise than you do to play an online slots game, but the same truth applies in both situations. Just like the eventual winners at an online slots website benefit from the losing bets placed by other players, every NFL team stands to benefit from the bad choices their opponents might make between now and the end of the season.
We don’t know what the long-term future of the Bucs or their stadium is, but we do know that the short-term future of the club involves a big date with the Dallas Cowboys in early September. Bring it on!