Brady's Back ... Back Again

How will Brady and the Bucs fare in his return to Foxborough?

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-1) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-2), 8:20PM ET

Line: Bucs -7, Total: 49.5

TWO THINGS EVERY FAN SHOULD KNOW

  • Brady Goes for Record in New England

If you’d told someone a few years ago that Tom Brady would break the all-time NFL record for most career passing yards and that he would do it in Foxborough, the response probably would have been: “Duh.” However, they would likely be assuming that Brady would accomplish that feat as a member of the Patriots. Obviously, that is not the case, but Brady still has a chance to set the all-time passing record tonight in front of the New England fans. Brady needs just 68 yards to pass Drew Brees, which seems all but certain barring something crazy (Brady has only once not reached 68 yards in a game he started -- and that was a Week 17 game in which he was removed early). Even though Brady has accumulated the majority of his career passing yards (currently 80,291) as a Patriot, the organization has said it will only briefly acknowledge the feat with a short pause. When Brees set his record three years ago, the Saints stopped the game and had an on-field ceremony. That might have been the case if Brady did it as a Pat. But as a Buc, he is the opponent, and the Patriots still have a game to win.

  • Belichick Misses Brady

Yes, Brady has had much more success since leaving New England than Bill Belichick has had since Brady left. However, assigning that entirely to the two people involved would be unfair -- Brady got to choose which team he went to, and Belichick had to rebuild with salary-cap constraints while also replacing a Hall of Fame quarterback. That said, it’s interesting to look at the numbers since the departure. In his first 20 seasons as head coach of the Patriots dating back to 2000, Belichick owned a 67-22 record vs. NFC teams, including his 6-3 mark in nine Super Bowl appearances. But beating the other conference has gotten a little more difficult lately. The Pats were 1-3 vs. the NFC West last season and lost at home to the Saints last Sunday, dropping their record vs. NFC teams since the start of 2020 to a disappointing 1-4. From 2003-19, the Patriots won at least 10 games in 17 consecutive seasons. But since the start of the post-Brady era, the Pats have only won eight games (8-11). The Buccaneers, now in their own Brady era, are a combined 17-6 in 23 total contests (including playoffs) since the start of last season.

TRENDS THAT EVERY SPORTS BETTOR NEEDS TO KNOW

  • The Brady Eras

Since Brady arrived in Tampa Bay, the Bucs have been better than .500 against-the-spread, compiling a 13-10 record (including playoffs). Many of those losses came in the early part of last season. Since the Bucs lost to the Rams in Week 11 of last season, they have gone 8-4 vs. the number. However, the team is 1-2 ATS this season. What about the Pats since Brady left? The results haven’t been great -- the team is 8-11 ATS since the start of last season and have dropped five of their last seven.

  • Sharps Love the Pats

We have another classic Pros vs. Joes matchup on Sunday Night Football. While 82% of the bets have been placed on the favored Buccaneers, 46% of the money has been bet on the Patriots. Generally, when there is such a large discrepancy between the bets and the money, it means the professional bettors are going against the public hard. Action Network is also reporting, not surprisingly, that they are seeing sharp action on the Patriots.

ANALYTICAL ANALYSIS THAT EVERY SPORTS NERD NEEDS TO KNOW

  • Gronk’s Injury Impact

Rob Gronkowski will not make his return to the field in Foxborough, as he has been ruled out because he’s dealing with cracked ribs and a punctured lung that will sideline him for potentially several weeks. That injury might prove costly for the Bucs because Gronk was set to exploit the biggest weakness in the Patriots’ pass defense: the middle of the field. It’s no secret that the Buccaneers’ offense runs through Brady. In fact, the Bucs average the least number of rushing attempts per game in the NFL (16.0). The Pats’ pass defense has been very strong this season, thanks in part to edge rusher Matthew Judon, who is the only player with a pass-rush win percentage higher than 30%, per Pro Football Focus. They also have the third-highest-rated man coverage CB in JC Jackson (behind the Saints’ Marshon Lattimore and the Titans’ Kristian Fulton). New England has allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game at 159.7 (behind only Carolina at 146.0), the second-lowest average opponent passer rating at 65.9 (Denver, 57.8) and the fourth-best mark in opponent completion percentage (59.2%).

However, New England’s success has been strongly predicated on its ability to stop passing games from working the edges of the field. According to Next Gen Stats, when facing passes outside the numbers, the Patriots’ defense is allowing a 55.4% completion percentage with 4 interceptions and 0 TD throws, and has held opposing QBs to a 40.8 passer rating. But when targeting receivers inside the numbers, Patriots’ opponents are seeing much more success. Inside the numbers, opposing passers are completing 66.7% of their passes, have thrown 3 TDs and 1 INT, and have a passer rating of 103.5. Where does Gronkowski do most of his damage? The middle of the field. Since becoming a Buc, 72.1% of Gronk’s catches have come inside the numbers and he’s scored six touchdowns. Without Gronk, Brady might be forced to rely more on his wide receivers, which helps play into the strength of the Patriots defense.


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