Which game should kick off the 2021 NFL season? Bucs-Cowboys among top choices

The 2021 NFL regular-season schedule is set to be released on NFL Network, NFL.com and the NFL app at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, which is when we'll learn who the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host in the NFL Kickoff Game on September 9.

Knowing Tom Brady and Co. will welcome the Bears, Bills, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Giants, Panthers and Saints to Raymond James Stadium this upcoming season, we asked our analysts to answer one simple question:

Who do you most want to see challenge the Bucs to open the 2021 NFL season?

Marc Ross: This is a no-brainer. It has to be the Dallas Cowboys. Despite their suspect on-field results over the past several years, they are still America's Team -- they generate the biggest TV audiences and are the world's most valuable sports franchise. The much anticipated return of Dak Prescott from injury facing off against the G.O.A.T. Tom Brady would make this matchup must-see TV and a ratings bonanza for the NFL.

Scott Pioli: I'd like to see the Bucs host the Buffalo Bills in the NFL's Kickoff Game. A matchup against another top team in the NFL, like the Bills, would get the 2021 season started with a bang. The storylines are endless, but more importantly, it would be a great showcase of two teams that should be very good again next season.

Nate Burleson: Just picture it: seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady hosting America's Team. Getting back to the Super Bowl is always on Jerry Jones' mind, and if he wants his beloved Cowboys to get there in 2021, he'll have to go through Tampa. Why not slay the dragon right out of the gate? Cowboys-Bucs, be there.

Joe Thomas: The NFL has to open the season with Bills Mafia making their way down to Raymond James Stadium. The Bills are the top team on the Bucs' home schedule in 2021, making this clash of two of the most intriguing teams in the league a perfect way to get the season rolling.

Maurice Jones-Drew: There are a few good options in the Bucs' home-game lineup, but there's one GREAT option: the Cowboys. From Dak Prescott's return from his brutal season-ending leg injury, to a revitalized Dallas defense under new coordinator Dan Quinn, the Cowboys present an enticing first opponent for the defending Super Bowl champs.

Charley Casserly: The best game on paper is Bills at Bucs. Tampa Bay returns all of its starters, while Buffalo retained most of them. There are several storylines that surround both teams heading into the 2021 campaign that I can't wait to see play out:

  • Will the Bucs pick up where they left off?
  • How will they respond to being the hunted?
  • Can Josh Allen take his game to the next level in Year 4?
  • Will the Bills' receivers -- with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders -- be too much for the Bucs' secondary?
  • Can the Bucs' running backs duplicate their 2020 success?
  • Has Buffalo's run defense improved?

I need answers! Is it September yet?

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