The Dallas Cowboys faced an uphill battle winning at the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL Kickoff Game on Thursday night as it was, but the Cowboys will be missing their “best player on offense” in All-Pro guard Zack Martin due to a positive COVID test. The spread keeps rising with the Bucs currently -8.5 at Caesars Sportsbook (once -6) and a total of 51.5. Should Tom Brady get the victory, he would set an NFL record of sorts when it comes to the Cowboys.
At Caesars, 76 percent of money wagered on the spread is on Tampa Bay and 68 percent of tickets. On the total, 57 percent of tickets are on the Over and 52 percent of money.
There was a sliver of hope that Martin could be cleared in time for Thursday after testing COVID over the weekend because he is vaccinated, but he won’t play. Vaccinated players can return after two negative tests 24 hours apart. Unvaccinated players must self-isolate for 10 days.
Martin is a six-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler who was a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team and star running back Ezekiel Elliott recently said this of Martin: “Zack’s our best player on our offense. I mean most runs, they coming back behind him.” Last year, Martin was Pro Football Focus’ second-highest graded (91.3) guard despite missing six games with a calf injury. The Cowboys will start Connor McGovern at right guard Thursday against one of the NFL’s top defensive lines.
It’s also the return for QB Dak Prescott, who was off to a historic passing yardage start in 2020 before going down in the fifth game with a season-ending ankle injury. Prescott is 8-2 ATS in his past 10 as an underdog. It’s only the second time in the Super Bowl era the Cowboys are at least +7 in Week 1 – they were +9 in the 2001 opener also against the Bucs and lost by four.
The lone key Bucs player out Thursday is free safety Jordan Whitehead due to a hamstring injury. He started all 16 games last year and had 74 tackles, two sacks, two picks and a forced fumble. Mike Edwards and Ross Cockrell should split time in his spot.
No quarterback in NFL history has ever gone 6-0 career against the Cowboys, including playoffs. Brady can accomplish that Thursday – he and Joe Montana are both 5-0. Former Packers great Bart Starr was 6-1. Terry Bradshaw is 5-1. Rather strangely, Brady is 0-8 against the spread in his past eight prime-time games. Those are kickoffs of 7 p.m. ET or later; Super Bowl 55 kicked off at 6:20 ET.
Brady is 14-4 SU and 8-9-1 ATS in his career in Week 1 starts. The defending Super Bowl champion team is 13-3 straight up and 11-4-1 ATS in the official Kickoff Game.
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