Football is back! For the second year in a row, the file Cowboys in Dallas The NFL season will start against Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year, they hit the road and narrowly lost to Tom Brady & Co in their season opener, but this year they will have the stadium advantage at home, hosting the Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium with their fans cheering.
With the Cowboys’ starters playing very little or nothing in pre-season, there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding this team entering their 2022 season opener. For this reason, it’s hard to gauge what this year’s team will look like. On the other hand, Dallas’s starts should look the same in 2021, with the exception of a few players who have moved elsewhere.
Knowing what we know about the expected Cowboys starters, and the role we expect them to play, we’ll try to identify an offensive and defensive player who could be the X factor in your first week against the Buccaneers. For the sake of some clarity, factor X is generally someone who changes the course of the outcome in the game in some way or another.
Offensive X Factor: Tony Pollard
Tony Pollard had 14 of 60 yards flush for the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year. He also added four catches for 29 yards through the air. Although his role in the 2022 season has yet to be decided, he is expected to see more touches as a runner and receiver this year.
Where the Number 20 might be the biggest influence early on is more than a traditional wide receiver until Michael Gallup returns to the starting line-up. For that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kellen Moore using it as a mismatched type of weapon off the court and split widely to try and get the ball into space.
Given Tony Pollard’s double-threat ability as a runner and receiver, and the fact that the Buccaneers will focus on curbing CeeDee Lamb in the passing game and Ezekiel Elliott in the running game, Dallas’ RB2 could slip through the cracks. Don’t be surprised to see him play one or two explosive, game-changing plays in prime time on 9/11.
Defensive X Factor: Micah Parsons
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady were lucky in their 2021 season opener, as they didn’t have to face Micah Parsons before he found his footing. Yes, he collected a full seven tackles, but he didn’t use as much as Blitzer either as a traditional full-back or as passes as if he was a little late in the season.
This time around, Tom Brady and Company will have to count the 2021 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in every single game. Number 11 is one of the few defensive players in the entire league who has the ability to change the course of the game in any given game. He is also someone who has grown up by leaps and bounds since the last time these two teams met.
Whether it’s as a traditional LB or as an edge-to-edge passer, Micah Parsons should have been a thorn in Tom Brady’s side from start to finish. If Parsons can get to TB12 early and often, the future Hall of Famer may be eliminated from his game. This in itself can greatly affect the game in favor of the Cowboys and possibly earn them a “W”.