By: Ryan Croke
On Sunday night, at 8:20 pm on NBC, a dream matchup that many NFL fans never thought would ever occur will take place: The first-ever meeting between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as rivals. The legendary coach and quarterback duo brought 6 Super Bowls to New England in their 20 years together but will find themselves as opponents in Sunday’s game. Tom Brady joined the young, talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March of last year, and led them to a Super Bowl championship in his first year with the team, a truly incredible feat. Belichick on the other hand struggled in his first year since 2001 without the greatest to ever play under center, as the Patriots finished with a disappointing 7-9 record, and the team was much worse than their record suggests. Brady is looking to return to the podium for the second year in a row and the eighth time in his career, while Belichick will attempt to right the ship, and lead his team back to their former dominance. This matchup was circled on the calendar the moment it was announced, and the game is sure to draw a sell-out crowd at Gillette Stadium and massive television ratings. It will surely be a drama-filled affair, as the storylines going into this game are unlike any other regular season contest ever before. The greatest coach and the greatest quarterback of all time are now separated and going to war against one another in the ultimate indicator of who relied on who more when they were together. This will be a game talked about for years to come.
The storylines and drama outside of the game may end up being more entertaining than the game itself, as the Buccaneers, despite having a shaky start to the year, nearly losing to the Dallas Cowboys and getting blown out by the Los Angeles Rams, should make easy work of this Patriots roster that has failed to live up to expectations so far. The Patriots are coming off an embarrassing home loss to a Saints team that made their supposedly great defense look useless, and their offensive line continues to struggle, the two parts of the roster that were expected to be the strongest going into the year. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is playing well, but is limited by the play of his offensive line and lack of a talented receiver core. He will face his toughest challenge yet, going against a Buccaneers defense that was dominant in last year’s playoffs against much better offenses. Their secondary has left much to be desired so far this year, and so has their front seven, but if New England plays the way they have so far, it will be a long night for Mac Jones. As for Tampa, their offense has looked stronger than ever, with receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and tight end Rob Gronkowski proving to be nearly impossible for a single defense to cover at once. Gronkoswki is out for Sunday’s game, however, which is a shame, because he is returning to New England for the first time as well. The Bucs should be fine without him, as their receivers are more than talented enough to make up for his absence. Tom Brady has played lights out as well, but their running game has had a slow start to the year. Tampa should pick apart this Patriots defense should New England underperform as they did against the Saints, but they are coming off a rough week themselves against the Rams. The Buccaneers should have a field day on paper, but Bill Belichick is sure to have a scheme planned for his former quarterback that he believes will win the Patriots the game. This contest will go one of two ways; either the Buccaneers blow out the Patriots as expected, or Bill Belichick’s squad executes a masterful game plan to perfection and barely squeak by in a close win. Either way, I will definitely be watching the greatest coach and quarterback ever play against each other for the first time in what will be an exciting game.
As a Patriots fan myself, I’d love to see these two former compatriots have a hard-fought game, but most of all, I want the New England crowd to show gratitude to the quarterback who brought them six Super Bowls. As much as I want the Patriots to win, that just doesn’t seem realistic, as they have been the cause of their own downfall so far this year, and if they play the way they have, this will be over before halftime. My prediction is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will embarrass the Patriots on their home turf with a final score of 31-10. Tom Brady throws for over 350 yards and 3 Touchdowns. The Patriots fail to get anything going on either side of the ball, and Mac Jones gets zero help from his o-line and receivers as he throws for less than 250 yards and 2 interceptions. Afterward, Brady is hailed as the superior to Belichick. No matter what happens on Sunday night these two will walk in and out as the greatest to ever do it in their respective fields, and this game will be a treat to watch regardless of the score.