What started as a grand, although challenging beginning of the 2021 season, featuring the return of quarterback Dak Prescott and on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, might now feature some addition motivation for the Dallas Cowboys.
Credit seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady for adding a little spice to the much-anticipated game, which kicks the NFL season kickoff in prime time on Thursday, Sept. 9, on NBC, and some sizzle to the NFL’s official 2021 schedule announcement on Wednesday.
Brady used his Instagram story to express his excitement about the season and take a troll shot at the Cowboys’ America’s Team moniker.
“9/9 CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH. EXCITED TO OPEN AGAINST ‘AMERICA’S TEAM’,” he wrote in a caption with a disingenuous winking photo from WandaVision next to it.
The popular and viral meme has come to mean whatever is being said is a lie or a joke.
The Buccaneers will be raising their Super Bowl banner before the game. It’s an opportunity for the Cowboys to make a statement in an attempt to reclaim their past glory in a season that fans and the organization hopes end with their first championship since 1995.
While the Cowboys have won four playoff games over the last 26 years, Brady has won seven titles and made 10 Super Bowl appearances over the last 20.
The Cowboys, however, still hold on to the America’s Team motto forged in the 1970s because they remain one of the league’s top television draws and most popular teams.
And that will be no different in 2021.
Despite finishing 6-10 last season, the schedule has the Cowboys playing in five prime time games, starting with the opener against the Buccaneers.
Their four other prime time games include hosting the Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN’s Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 27, visiting the Minnesota Vikings on NBC’s Sunday Night Football Oct. 31, playing at the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Dec. 2, and hosting the Washington Football Team on Sunday, Dec. 26.
Those games are in addition to their annual Thanksgiving Day game, when they will host the Las Vegas Raiders at AT&T Stadium on Nov. 25.
The schedule features a daunting road schedule that has the Cowboys opening the season with back-to-back games away from AT&T Stadium and cross-country trip.
The Cowboys will get 10 days off after the Buccaneers game before traveling to face the Los Angeles Chargers Sept. 19. They play at the New England Patriots on Oct. 17 and at the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 21.
The Cowboys will play the last two Super Bowl champions, and both games will be on the road. The Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
This season marks the seventh time, and second time over the last three seasons, that the Cowboys will face both Super Bowl participants from the previous season.
The Chiefs game is four days before the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving against the Raiders. It’s part of a three-game stretch in 12 days that concludes with the game at the Saints on Dec. 2.
The Cowboys games will have 10 days off after the Saints game before beginning their final five-game stretch to end the season that includes four division games, including both contests against Washington Football Team, last season’s NFC East champions.
They play at Washington on Dec. 12, play at the New York Giants on Dec. 19 before their Sunday night home game against Washington. The Arizona Cardinals come to AT&T Stadium on Jan. 2 and the Cowboys end the season at Philadelphia on Jan. 9.
The Cowboys play three of their last five, four of their last six and five of the final eight games on the road. This will be the 19th time in the organization’s history, and second consecutive season that the Cowboys will open and close the season on the road.
In addition to the two 10-day layoffs, the Cowboys have a bye in Week 7 following the Patriots game.
The NFL had previously announced it was moving to a 17-game regular-season schedule, and the Cowboys will open the era with a ninth road game.
The schedule may appear daunting, however, the Cowboys strength of the schedule ranks 31st in the league. This season’s opponents finished the 2020 campaign with a combined record of 122-148-2 and a .452 winning percentage.
The rest of the Cowboys’ home schedule includes against the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, who had 2020 records of 5-11, 5-11 and 4-12, respectively.
Cowboys poised to rebound
After going 6-10 in 2020, the Cowboys are primed for a rebound, especially with the return of Prescott and the addition of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Prescott, who signed a four-year, $160 million contract in March, missed the final 11 games of 2020 with a compound fracture and dislocation in his right ankle. He has undergone two surgeries and is well ahead of schedule in his rehab. He said last week that he could play in a game now, if necessary.
Prescott will be ready to go for the start of training camp and could make his debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday, Aug. 5, exactly five weeks prior to their start of the regular season. It will be the first of four preseason games for the Cowboys.
But Prescott’s official return will come against trash-talking Brady and Buccaneers.
Dallas Cowboys 2021 season schedule
at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
at Los Angeles Rams
NEW YORK GIANTS
at New England Patriots
at Minnesota Vikings
at Kansas City Chiefs
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
at New Orleans Saints
FOX / Amazon / NFL
at New York Giants
at Philadelphia Eagles