The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, resembling more off a mash unit than a football team, head to Foxboro for a much anticipated Sunday night football matchup with the New England Patriots.
This game was circled on the calendar of both team’s schedules when this game was announced in May. This is one of the most anticipated regular-season matchups in recent memory and could be one of the most-watched regular-season games in NFL history.
If anyone on the Patriots or the Buccaneers tells you that this is just another game on the schedule, they are lying to you. This is a huge game that both teams want to win in the worst way.
Millions of television sets across the country will tune in to this game to see the GOAT, Tom Brady’s return to New England, to play his former coach Bill Belichick.
The Buccaneers are hurting on both sides of the ball. I can’t remember a time last season when so many players were banged up on both sides of the ball.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss the game on Sunday with fractured ribs and may miss a substantial portion of the season. With Gronkowski on the sidelines, the Bucs will have three active tight ends on the roster: Cameron Brate, OJ Howard, and Cody McElroy, who was impressive when given the opportunity in the preseason.
It’s about time that Howard starts playing like a number one draft pick and putting up some good numbers. He has been mediocre( injuries notwithstanding) his first four years in the league, and now is the time to show this Bucs team that he deserves a second contract.
The Bucs will also be missing a key component of their passing as running back Giovanni Bernard has been ruled out with an MCL sprain.
Linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul will not make the trip as he recovers from a shoulder injury,
The defensive backfield, already missing one starter, maybe down another starter. Carlton Davis is now listed as questionable on the injury report. Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean will also miss the game this week.
The Buccaneers did activate veteran defensive back Pierre Desir, off the practice squad, and he should get some playing time on Sunday.
Richard Sherman will make the trip and be on the roster, but with only three practice sessions, it is not likely that he could step in and be counted on for many snaps.
If Davis can’t go, Dee Delaney could see his first significant playing time of the season, providing Richard Sherman does not get the start over Delaney and Pierre Desir.
This week, Bruce Arians liked the intensity at practice. He feels the Buccaneers are in a good position to rebound from the loss to the Rams. “A hell of a week of practice. You could really feel the difference in intensity this week. It doesn’t have a damn thing to do with Brady. It has to do with losing. I like the way we bounced back on the practice field.”
The country will also get to see Tom Brady become the NFL’s all-time leading passer. Brady needs just 68 yards to pass Drew Brees for the top spot in NFL history.
Arians is excited to see Brady break the record against his former team. “For me, any time they say ‘in the history of,’ you’re the first to do it, it’s big. It’s huge, especially in the history of the NFL. So yeah, it’s going to be a big, big moment. Hopefully, it’s a long touchdown, we get it over with, and he scores a bunch more.”
Tom Brady has done his best this week to keep his emotions in check as he returns to where he won his first seven Super Bowls. “I’m just excited to go up there and try to beat a really good football team. That’s ultimately what this weeks is about. It’s not about the quarterback. It’s not about the fans or the home crowd or relationships of 20 years. This is about two good football teams going at it, and we’ve got to do a great job. It’s going to be a huge test. Last week was a huge test, and we didn’t quite meet it. This is another huge test; we’ve got to go meet the challenge.”
The Bucs will be looking for their first road win of the season after a 34-24 thumping in Los Angeles last weekend.
On paper, this would appear to be a mismatch. But defensively, the Patriots have played very well early in the season. New England ranks fifth in the NFL in both points and yards allowed. The Buccaneers put up 446 yards of offense lasts week against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
The Patriots have their issues to worry about on offense. Bill Belichick opted to go with a rookie quarterback over the veteran Cam Newton for the first time in his career. Mac Jones, the rookie from Alabama, will be under center for the Patriots on Sunday as he has for the past three weeks.
Jones is completing 67 percent of his passes but is averaging an NFL low 6.1 yards per attempt. The Patriot’s offensive line play has been inconsistent this season, not affording Mac Jones great protection.
The Patriots have been some big names on offense. Tight ends Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, and wide receivers Nelson Agholar, Kendrick Bourne, and holdover Jacobi Myers. None of the above have had a breakout game yet this season.
The Patriots are averaging 317 yards per game on offense and 18 points per game.
The Buccaneers opened up as seven-point favorites and have stayed there all week as kickoff approaches.
This is a game the Bucs need to win and should win.
Look for Brady to keep his emotions in check.The defense will finally have their breakout game this season. Buccaneers will return to Tampa 31-14 winners over the Patriots.