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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS — Quick thoughts and observations on the New England Patriots and the National Football League:
1. Predicting Brady vs. Patriots: Everyone is buzzing about Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots on Sunday night (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). So why not get up with some former Patriots players and ask them for their predictions?
CB Buccaneers 28, Buccaneers 18 — Kyle Arrington “Obviously, both Tom and Bill will be fired up, but Tampa has the superior team in general. Mac Jones, the Patriots’ quarterback, will be the X factor. I understand that Tom and Bill cover the bulk of the news, but Jones, as Tom’s successor, is under a lot of pressure to convince everyone that he has the gravitas to take the reins on Sunday night.”
LB Tedy Bruschi predicts a Patriots victory — “It’s extremely improbable that I’ll choose against the Patriots since I’ll be there, 50 yards from where RKK [owner Robert Kraft] draped a red [Patriots Hall of Fame] blazer over my shoulders.”
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Buccaneers 28, Buccaneers 14 — QB Jim Miller “I believe [Buccaneers defensive coordinator] Todd Bowles will throw some looks at Mac Jones in order to get him to make a couple of mistakes. Todd may be unique, and it’s not a typical defensive for a rookie quarterback to face. Mac has looked fantastic, and as he matures, he will learn how to combat these looks.”
Buccaneers 35-17, Malcolm Mitchell, WR “I believe the Bucs have too much experience and are too explosive.” At quarterback, they have the greatest leader in the league. I’d guess 48-7 if Bill wasn’t the Patriots’ coach. The Patriots will be successful. They are the best prepared team in the league. They’ll carry out smart game plans, but skill and experience will win out early and late.
Buccaneers 28-17, according to LB Rob Ninkovich — “I simply don’t think the Patriots will be able to stay up.”
Buccaneers 42-17, WR Donte’ Stallworth — “The Buccaneers’ coaches and players (particularly Brady and Gronk) may not express it openly, but they want to crush the Patriots and Bill Belichick for Tom Brady. Although the season is still early and both clubs have suffered setbacks, these two squads are not the same.”
TE Buccaneers win, according to Benjamin Watson — “I don’t have a score, but I’m going with the Buccaneers for the same reason I’ve always gone with the Patriots: the quarterback. From a statistical perspective, he’s more efficient, has a larger veteran presence, is arguably the greatest of all time, and the list goes on and on.”
Buccaneers 31, Buccaneers 13 — RB Fred Taylor “It’s impossible to bet against the GOAT. Tampa Bay has too many offensive weapons, and the Patriots’ D-line will go after Mac Jones (3 sacks), as the Patriots have only defeated a bad Jets team with the league’s weakest offensive line.”
Buccaneers 24, Patriots 21 — LB Pierre Woods “I’m a lifelong Pats fan, but going up against a guy on a mission like TB12 is difficult. It should be a tense matchup.”
2. Brady’s strategy: Brady indicated he’ll wait until after Sunday’s game to speak with former Patriots teammates. “They are and will be some of my closest friends for the rest of my life. After the game, it will be wonderful to see everyone. I’m focused on trying to win a football game up to the game “he said
It reminds me of the 2003 Cowboys-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium, when everyone was waiting to see if Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick would meet before kickoff, and Parcells was hovering around middle to see if it would happen. But Belichick maintained his distance, and the Patriots didn’t have their chance until after a 12-0 victory.
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5. Randy Moss reminisces: Former Patriots receiver Randy Moss returned to Gillette Stadium on Sunday for ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, when he reminisced about his favorite aspects of the stadium.
He remarked, “I was constantly in awe of Gillette.” “I had always gone away to training camp throughout my ten years in the National Football League.” ‘Hey, where’s training camp?’ I wondered when I arrived at Foxborough. They were like, ‘Right here,’ and I was like, ‘Right here.’ It was convenient to be at Patriot Place since everything was close by. That’s one of the things I’ll never forget, and you could just concentrate on football if you wanted to.
“Those are the recollections of our journeys from the dressing room to the field. It isn’t even a game. Just the walks, through the tunnel, past security, up the stairs — every day you walk with a new person. It’s simply nice to have those connections and those conversations — sometimes genuine conversations, sometimes adversarial conversations. That’s something I’m missing out on.”
6. Stop in the red zone: One of the most concerning statistics for the Patriots is their No. 32 red zone offensive ranking, with just two scores in eight trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. If that doesn’t improve, it’ll be difficult to defeat the Buccaneers, and developing a more consistent ground assault may be a major part of the recipe. “We’ve destroyed ourselves with penalties,” tight end Hunter Henry said. “I was a part of it last week [with a false start].” “We must be locked in and complete the drives. We’re stalling out on the outskirts and kicking a bunch of field goals.”
7. McCarthy’s recollection: There’s no parallel to Brady’s homecoming, although some have referred to Brett Favre’s return to Green Bay as a Minnesota Viking in 2009 as one of the closest simulacra. Mike McCarthy, the current coach of the Cowboys, was the Packers’ head coach at the time, and he stated this week, “There was clearly a lot of passion around that game, which had nothing to do with who would win or lose. As a head coach, you want to keep everything focused on the most important thing, which was to win that game.” Favre won 34-24, and the crowd booed him. On Sunday night, hearing boos for Brady would be surprising.
In his return to Lambeau Field in 2009, Brett Favre fired four touchdown passes for the Vikings in a 38-26 victory. Mike Roemer/AP Photo
“His career alone is old enough to drink,” they remarked. Brady is still going strong in his 22nd NFL season, according to Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. Mayo, of course, was Brady’s New England teammate from 2008 to 2014.
9. Matt Judon’s mouthpiece: Outside linebacker Matt Judon, who has given the Patriots’ defense a noticeable edge in his first season, expects to be yelling at Brady on Sunday night. With anybody, he pretty much mixes it up verbally. “I speak trash all the time,” he said, “which is why I wear a little, thin mouthpiece so you can hear what I say.”
Did you know that? According to Elias Sports Bureau data, Brady is 50-14 (.781) in his NFL career after an in-season defeat, the greatest record by any starting quarterback since 1950. (minimum 23 starts). Russell Wilson (34-10,.773) of the Seattle Seahawks and Joe Montana (30-9,.769) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame are up next.
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