The National Football League kicks off their regular season tonight with the customary Super Bowl winner hosting the Thursday night opener. The tradition began in 2004, and only twice has the league abandoned the practice. Once forced due to a scheduling conflict and a second time by choice to celebrate the league’s 100th anniversary.
This is the Buccaneers first time ever hosting a Thursday night opener, but it’s not Brady’s. Tom Brady has more Super Bowl wins than any NFL franchise, seven, and followed four of those victories in New England with a Thursday night home opener. He was by tradition scheduled to host another in 2019, but the league celebrated their anniversary with a game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
In 2013, the league was forced to have the defending champions open on the road. The Baltimore Ravens were entitled to the home game, but because of a conflict in scheduling between them and Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, the Ravens were forced to open on the road. The Ravens and Orioles play in different stadiums, but utilize the same parking lot.
The Orioles wouldn’t reschedule their game, and the Ravens opened defense of their Super Bowl XLVII title against the same team they had upset a few months earlier in the playoffs, the Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning and company electrified an opening sellout crowd at Mile High Stadium and the champs got chumped, 49-27.
Historically, Since 2004, the Super Bowl team getting the home field for the opener has had a very good time of it. The defending champs at home are 13-2 straight-up and 9-3-3 versus the point spread. In the four games involving Brady and his New England Patriots, they had won three straight openers on Thursday night until being upset four years ago by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Surprisingly, Brady in the Thursday night openers has only once beaten the point spread in his four decisions, albeit he pushed on two other games, for an overall point spread mark of 1-1-2.
Take Brady’s New England Patriots out of the overall Thursday night opener stats and the numbers for the defending champions get even better. The 13-2 straight up record becomes 10-1 with a point spread record of 8-2-1.
While history points to the Buccaneers in this spot, the baggage the Dallas Cowboys bring into this game can spike in one of two directions. The challenge in front of them can generate an inspired effort and overconfidence on the Buccaneers side could result in a steady but unspectacular performance and a point spread loss.
Or, the Cowboys really are that bad, and tonight’s game is just going to be an extension of what we saw last season and through this year’s preseason. Lingering injuries and recent Covid exposures have even further crippled an already suspect Dallas squad.
It is my opinion that history does not always repeat, but does always dictate the future. Factors here give a huge edge on one side based on pure talent and team cohesion, and match that up against a dire situation for the Cowboys heading into what they know could be a blowout defeat.
This is going to be a textbook challenge between motivation and talent. I consistently bend with motivation, but am not interested in underestimating the talent in this spot.