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Cowboys vs. Buccaneers: Each team’s X-factor player for Sunday

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New season, new start, and with that, the Dallas Cowboys are looking to put all the talk and intrigue of the offseason to bed. That process may intensify Sunday night when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. We talked nauseously about the offensive line position and lack of preparation that led us to Tyler Smith starting his first NFL game at left tackle after practicing at left guard all training camp. We can’t forget how badly we felt the Cowboys missed a piece in the wide reception room as they looked to see how the youngsters served them before they did.

However, as the Cowboys head into week one, we’re all fascinated to see how it’s going on the field. Tampa comes in with its own issues and seems oddly familiar with what the Cowboys are currently dealing with themselves. They have question marks over a star receiver and his availability, and will also play a rookie and backups on the offensive line. In the end, these two teams will dress up and battle it out for 60 minutes and the most complete and prepared team will emerge victorious and feel good about their decisions for at least a week.

You can look at the three phases of these two teams and make a convincing case that there is an X factor on all three units. However, these two individuals, a Cowboy, a member of the Buccaneers, will have the biggest impact on Sunday’s game.

Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

When we talk about X-Factors, it’s not necessarily the best players in the team each week, but rather the players who play that week who will affect the game the most. It’s hard to think of a player a Cowboy whose debut and performance will be watched more closely than the young rookie from Tulsa. Making his NFL debut against a tough and respected Bucs front seven is no small feat. To do so with minimal offensive tackle reps in training and none in position in a live pre-season setting is quite alarming.

The Cowboys are placing a lot of trust and faith in the first-round pick to go out there and protect Dak Prescott and his blind side. We’ve seen players from that organization go there and man that position so bad it impacted the game of football deeply and scarred us all for life. Ultimately, Smith is a much more talented player than Chaz Green. Expectations for him aren’t to be All-Pro at the gate, nobody expects that, but it’s safe to say with a healthy dose of confidence that Smith’s debut won’t be that low either. Either way, Tyler Smith’s performance will absolutely be the X-Factor for this Dallas Cowboys team and however that turns out will be a good indicator of how we all feel on Monday morning.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp

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Although Julio Jones may not be the Julio Jones of old, he could find himself playing a pivotal role in the outcome of Sunday night’s game. Chris Godwin was very uncertain heading into week one and while it looks like Godwin will be playing on Sunday night, there will definitely be limited reps as they bring him back. Not having Godwin go all out is a success for this Bucs offense, a unit that looks to improve on their second ranked offense from 2021 heading into the new season.

That void will be filled by a wide receiver who was widely considered one of the league’s best just a few years ago. Although it’s a few unfortunate teams and injuries ago, Jones still commands respect on the pitch. If Jones is able to come in Sunday night and put together some production and get the attention of the Cowboys secondary on his Tampa Bay debut, it could very well change the complexion of this offense and the game in his together. If Jones isn’t on the same page as Tom Brady, or just doesn’t have a glimpse of who we knew him to be, the options Brady has to offer as well aren’t as daunting as in years past. Look for Dan Quinn and company to keep a close eye on Julio Jones as they try to figure out how to limit Brady and attack him on the way to a Week One victory.