The Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55 on Sunday in Tampa, 31-9, for the franchise's second all-time championship. Back when the Bucs won their first title following the 2002 season, the NFL hadn't started the practice of the defending Super Bowl champion hosting the Kickoff Game to begin the following season. Assuming the league continues that tradition, and there's no reason to think it won't, SportsLine oddsmakers favor the Bucs to open 2021 against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 9.
The NFL schedule won't be out until April but it should leak whom the Bucs will face in the game well before that. Also keep in mind that the league is expected to add a 17th game for all teams next season and it's not clear who that might be for Tampa Bay or whether it would be home or away. So, oddsmakers are using simply what is known among the Bucs' eight scheduled home opponents.
SportsLine oddsmakers favored the Chiefs to open this season in the Kickoff Game against the Houston Texans and that's what happened with K.C. winning 34-20. Defending Super Bowl champions are 13-3 in the Kickoff Game. The league usually schedules intraconference matchups in the game as well.
The last AFC vs. NFC Kickoff Game was to start the 2016 season when Denver hosted Carolina in a Super 50 bowl rematch. The Bucs aren't scheduled to face the Chiefs in 2021 … but will visit Tom Brady's former New England Patriots team. That would be an ideal Kickoff Game but because it's on the road it won't happen.
No team draws better television ratings or betting action every NFL season than the Dallas Cowboys, so they are the natural choice. The Cowboys have played in the Kickoff Game twice, going 1-1. The Cowboys and Bucs didn't play this season.
Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo would be an excellent matchup, but the NFL would have to go against its usual policy for this game. Brady owned the Bills in his Patriots days, going 32-3 against them. The other AFC team the Bucs host is Miami (again without knowing the 17th game) and NBC wouldn't want an all-Florida matchup regardless.
The Bucs opened the 2020 season in New Orleans, but the Saints won't have quite the national appeal in 2021 if Drew Brees retires as expected – that could happen this week. Atlanta and Carolina don't have a lot of national cache and both were lousy this past season. So were the New York Giants, although you can never rule them out of this game simply because of that massive New York media market.
However, if it's not Dallas it most likely will be Chicago, which is always a national draw. The Bears also figure to have the story line of a new starting quarterback. Perhaps Philadelphia's Carson Wentz? Tampa lost in Chicago in Week 5 this season, 20-19. The Bears played at Green Bay in the 2019 Kickoff Game but that didn't include the defending Super Bowl champion. The NFL simply wanted to have the league's oldest rivalry begin its 100th anniversary season.
Despite Sunday's lopsided loss, the Chiefs are +550 favorites at William Hill Sportsbook to win Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles. The Bucs are +900 second favorites with the Packers. Those two aren't scheduled to play next season, either.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Which team will the Bucs host in the 2021 NFL Kickoff Game?
- Dallas Even
- Chicago +200
- Buffalo +400
- New Orleans +700
- NY Giants +1000
- Atlanta +1200
- Carolina +1500
- Miami +2000