Who Might Tampa Bay Play In The Annual ‘Kickoff’ Game To Begin The 2021 Season?

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The NFL never stops, as displayed by the fact that fans are already talking about the 2021 season. Now that the Super Bowl is over, fans want to know what the season opening game is going to be.

After the 31-9 Buccaneers’ blowout win over the Chiefs, the Bucs have earned the right to host the Thursday night season opener, set to be played on September 9th, likely at Raymond James Stadium.

Last season, it was the Houston Texans and Chiefs in a AFC Divisional Playoff rematch at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won the game 34-20.

Over the years, there have been some memorable season opening games and, frankly, some stinkers.

When the Bucs won the Super Bowl beating the Oakland Raiders back in the 2003 season, the following season started with an odd selection for the opener. The New York Jets played the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in a game won by the Redskins 16-13.

The Bucs opened their defense of their title with a 17-0 shutout win over the Philadelphia Eagles on the road.

In 2021, there’s going to be some interesting options for the NFL to consider for the Bucs opener at home. Here are a few teams that could find their way onto the docket:

1. Chicago Bears

A Bears-Bucs battle to start the season would be a lot of fun. The Bears were a playoff team in 2020, and with the recent rumors that Chicago is hot and heavy on the trail of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, there would be plenty of intrigue in this opening night matchup.

2. New Orleans Saints

A lot of this game could hinge on whether Saints future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees decides to retire. If Brees walks away, which he is expected to do, this game would lose a lot of its appeal. Many fans won’t be as pumped to see Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill under center for the Saints. It would still be a divisional matchup though, and this past season the Saints dominated the two regular season games. They beat the Bucs by a combined score of 72-26.

Tampa got their revenge in the playoffs though. They outplayed the 13-3 Saints in New Orleans, 30-20, and then moved onto the NFC Title game in Green Bay against the Packers.

3. Dallas Cowboys

An interesting choice — and one that would draw solid ratings — would be the Cowboys, who want to make an early statement to put their awful 2020 behind them. With the expected return of QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott and some other star players, this could be a fun opener with the opportunity for both teams to score a lot of points.

4. Buffalo Bills

The Bills were one step away from playing in the Super Bowl in Tampa, but the Chiefs’ defense did enough against young up and coming QB Josh Allen to stop Buffalo from advancing to the big game. Buffalo is going to be an AFC favorite this year, and starting out the season with a fun AFC-NFC battle between the Super Bowl champs and the AFC runner-up would certainly draw viewers. The question is does the NFL look to save this game for a Sunday night affair for later in the season?

The Bucs’ other four home games are as follows: New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, all of which would be options as well.

Written by Matt Loede

Matt has been a part of the Cleveland Sports landscape working in the media since 1994 when he graduated from broadcasting school. His coverage beats include the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers. He's written three books, and won the "2020 AP Sports Stringer Lifetime Service Award."

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