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Buccaneers schedule, 2021 NFL odds: Tampa Bay begins title defense vs. Cowboys in Kickoff Game; Tom Brady back to New England Week 4

The Super Bowl champion Bucs return every starter from last season and actually have one of the NFL's easiest schedules in 2021.
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As predicted by SportsLine oddsmakers right after Super Bowl 55, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 Kickoff Game to get the new NFL season started on Sept. 9. It's the first time in that game for the Bucs, who opened as 6-point favorites on the NFL odds. While that will draw mega-ratings and betting action, it will be dwarfed in hype by when Brady (and Rob GronkowskI) return to New England in Week 4. Those are two of the Bucs' five prime-time games, the most allowed.

No team has repeated as Super Bowl champion since Brady's Patriots in the 2004 NFL season, but TB12's Buccaneers return every starter from last year's championship team and have one of the NFL's easiest schedules for 2021. However, are the Bucs really prepared to enter the season with untested Blaine Gabbert as Brady's backup quarterback? William Hill Sportsbook oddsmakers give the Bucs an Over/Under win total of 11.5 with the added 17th game.

The Bucs weren't active in free agency in terms of adding guys from other teams for the most part because they focused on bringing back their own free agents like receiver Chris Godwin, running back Leonard Fournette, Gronkowski, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David, and a few others. Even wideout Antonio Brown, not technically a starter, is back. 

Tampa Bay is the only team in the salary-cap area (since 1994) to return all of its Super Bowl starters. The last team to return all of its Week 1 starters from a Super Bowl season was the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers, who repeated as champions. The last team to return all of its Super Bowl starters was the 1977 Oakland Raiders, who lost in the AFC title game.

Since 2010, the most starters to return on a Super Bowl team was 21 on the 2011 Green Bay Packers. They finished an NFL-best 15-1 in the '11 regular season but were upset in the Divisional Round.

"There's a number of factors. I think they all know the culture, love the culture," coach Bruce Arians said of so many key players re-signing. "They're all getting paid. Ain't nobody coming back cheap, you know what I mean? It's a great organization. We obviously have a team that should be in the hunt again.

Tampa's one main free-agent addition was former Bengals running back Gio Bernard, formerly of the Bengals. He will serve as a third-down back. The Bucs did perhaps land Brady's eventual successor (unless he plays until age 50 as has been rumored) in the second round of the draft in Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, but he won't see the field in 2021 barring disaster/emergency. 

Keep in mind that Tampa Bay didn't even win its division last year but is the clear favorite now that Drew Brees has retired from the New Orleans Saints. The Bucs' 2021 schedule is ranked as the 29th-toughest in the league as their 17 opponents – visiting the Colts is the 17th game -- were a combined 126-145-1 last season.

Tampa Bay Bucs trends/William Hill Sportsbook odds

  • 2020 record: 11-5 (9-7 against the spread, 9-7 Over/Under)
  • 2021 strength of schedule rank: 29th (opponents' combined winning percentage of .465)
  • 2021 Over/Under win total: 11.5
  • SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 11.2
  • Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +650
  • To win NFC: +300
  • To win NFC South: -180
  • To make playoffs: Yes -750, no +500
  • NFL MVP odds: Tom Brady +1800

Tampa Bay Bucs Schedule

Week 1 vs. Dallas Cowboys (Kickoff Game): Dallas makes first visit to Tampa since losing 10-6 in 2015

Week 2 vs. Atlanta Falcons: Bucs are 3-0 ATS in past three at home following 44-27 win last year

Week 3 at Los Angeles Rams: L.A. was +4 in Tampa last November and won 27-24

Week 4 at New England Patriots (SNF): Brady returns to New England; this will be an absolute zoo

Week 5 vs. Miami Dolphins: Bucs have covered six straight in series, last in 30-20 win four years ago

Week 6 at Philadelphia Eagles (TNF): Philly has dropped past two in series, last 27-21 on road in 2018

Week 7 vs. Chicago Bears: Tampa was -3.5 in Chicago last season but Brady struggled in 20-19 loss

Week 8 at New Orleans Saints: Bucs have just three covers in past 10 trips to Big Easy

Week 9 BYE

Week 10 at Washington Football Team: WFT played well in 31-23 home wild-card loss in January to Bucs

Week 11 New York Giants (MNF): Teams met in New Jersey last year and Bucs rallied for 25-23 win 

Week 12 at Indianapolis Colts: Added 17th opponent; Bucs' only cover in past eight meetings was in 1994

Week 13 at Atlanta Falcons: Tampa won second in a row at Falcons last year, 31-27, but didn't cover

Week 14 vs. Buffalo Bills: Bills have covered just once in past eight meetings (2009)

Week 15 vs. New Orleans Saints (SNF): Tampa on three-game SU & ATS home losing streak in series

Week 16 at Carolina Panthers: Carolina was blown out 46-23 at home last year and is 0-2 ATS in past two at home

Week 17 at New York Jets: Bucs ended eight-game ATS losing streak in series with 15-10 win in 2017

Week 18 vs. Carolina Panthers: Carolina is 2-2 ATS in past four in Tampa but lost 31-17 in 2020

Where does every player appear in our 2021 Fantasy football rankings? And which rookie quarterback will provide shocking value? Join SportsLine right now to get 2021 Fantasy football rankings, all from the model that simulated the entire season 10,000 times.

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