The fact that Tom Brady and the 2-1 reigning Super Bowl 55 Champion Buccaneers are less than touchdown favorites in Sunday’s revenge game against the 1-2 Patriots is ridiculous. Any thought that Bill Belichick and New England are somehow spoiling Brady’s brilliant night with an excitement.
The Bucs have a tough 34-24 week 2 loss against the Rams races behind them. The Patriots were pounded by the Saints 28-13 last Sunday, falling to 0-2 at home, with Brady’s first-round substitute Mac Jones looking like the rookie.
The contrarian will say that Belichick is just as good at recovering from defeat as Brady was. Or his inside knowledge of Brady’s elite game will allow him to craft a defensive game plan that frustrates him in a way few opponents have ever done before.
But based on the initial results of their 2020 split – Brady won a Super Bowl in his first season with the Patriots and Belichick saw his team miss the playoffs for the first time in a dozen seasons – anything else would tell you you should side with the quarterback against his former coach, and it’s nowhere near that.
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With Brady and Belichick not going to meet on the field, this is really about how good the Buccaneers are as a team and how not good the Patriots are.
The Buccaneers passing game is hot and, with Brady, unstoppable when everyone is healthy. Wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both play at high levels, but the restored presence of former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has added to the matchup nightmare. Another former Patriots passport catcher, Antonio Brown, could return from the COVID-19 list for the revenge party, but if not, Brady will continue to view young Tyler Johnson as a complementary deep threat.
The Secondary of the Patriots is missing Stephon Gilmore. Their top remaining corner, JC Jackson, has two interceptions and has covered well before a big free agency payday, but they are vulnerable elsewhere. Former Raven Matthew Judon added a jolt to the pass frenzy, but the Bucs are strong and protect the edges for Brady with offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Tristian Wirfs.
Early on, the Patriots were stingy against wide receivers and tight ends. But then again, they played the questionable pass-catch corps of the Dolphins, Jets, and Saints. They’ll play all night plucking their poison while Brady takes them apart, knowing the schematic tendencies of Belichick and the multiple patriot play behind seven defenders.
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You have to throw the ball down to defeat the Buccaneers and outperform Brady. The Patriots are game-dependent and will forego James White, Brady’s long-standing reliable safety valve. Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers do not create enough firepower against an injured secondary school. Neither the new expensive tight end, Jonnu Smith nor Hunter Henry, had a Gronk-like influence to crank Jones.
Don’t forget how inspired Brady’s new teammates will be to make sure he beats his old team. Gronkowski and Brown have their own personal motivations, but the rest of the pass catchers, offensive linemen, and running backs won’t want to let him down.
The defense, maligned early on for failing to restore some of their chiefs dominance in Super Bowl 55, is set to fly all over the field. The Bucs love to claim lots of lightning bolts from under Todd Bowles, but see they back off knowing they don’t want to create an easy one-on-one against their substitute defenders. Jones will see lots of glances with the aim of getting the Bucs to come to him with four rushers.
Jones did not respond well when the run was stopped and the Patriots fell into a big hole against the Saints. The Bucs can do the same to him if Brady puts them on a big lead.
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Most Sunday Night Football games come close with two even teams. This is purely a ratings ditch for the supporting actor drama, with the Adele soundtrack in tow. The matchup itself will be a one-sided celebration with the Bucs throwing away the Patriots and doing it for Brady.
Quarterbacks on emotional nights tend to have extra fuel. Brady will have a lot of fire, but he still won’t stray from being cool and collected when it comes to anything Belichick throws at him.
Brady will also be aware that the last pass he threw as a Patriot in New England was a pick six in the wildcard playoffs. Probably his last time playing the Patriots as an opponent – unless he is still playing at the age of 52 in 2029 – Brady will ensure that he leaves his long-standing home field in style.
Brady will lead the Bucs to a huge win, not just for the Patriots fans who have come to see their beloved GOAT one last time, but also for those who resent his career in New England did not stop.
This is not like any other Super Bowl as Brady tends to lose from time to time in this game. This is the Brady Bowl and there is only one possible outcome: the sweet dominance of the Buccaneers and a shrug emoji from Belichick.