Through The Spyglass: Buccaneers Travel To New England

0
463

It’s always awkward to see your ex. You want to show them that you’re better off now without them and you didn’t need them anyways. In many ways that is the feeling that Tom Brady will have this weekend when he leads the Buccaneers to New England to play the Patriots. 

When the schedule was released this year, this was a game that was immediately circled by football fans. Not just the return of Brady, but for Rob Gronkowski as well. Even Antonio Brown had a brief stay in New England. Both of them will look to help Brady break the all time passing yards record, which he is just 68 yards away from. The storylines really just write themselves in this game.

However, beyond all the talk and intrigue there is still a football game to be played. The Buccaneers sit at 2-1 after a rough loss to the Rams last week. The Patriots are looking to get back on track after falling to 1-2 at the hands of the Saints. Two games above or below the .500 mark is fairly significant, so both teams will be very motivated to get this win. Here’s what to watch for.

The Next Tom Brady?

As much as people will talk about Brady’s many accomplishments with the Patriots, a new era has begun at quarterback. Rookie Mac Jones will make his fourth career start in this game after being drafted in the first round from Alabama. And yes, comparing him to Brady is completely unfair, but that’s bound to happen when you take over for this type of icon.

Jones is an accurate passer who throws a pretty deep ball. He doesn’t have great arm strength, but he’s intelligent and gets the ball where it needs to go quickly. In terms of prototype, he is actually like Brady in some ways. A lack of mobility stands out as a key similarity in this game.

At this point in his career, it seems unlikely that Jones will elevate the players around him and put up big statistical numbers. He’s more likely to do most of his work in the short to intermediate areas of the field with the occasional deep shot. The phrase “game manager” might apply in this case. 

If the Buccaneers can keep things in front of them and make tackles in space, this passing game should be manageable. It’s a lot to ask of a rookie to step in and lead an NFL offense. It’s even more difficult when he has to go against the defending champions and a Todd Bowles led defense.

Steak Over Sizzle On Offense

The Patriots don’t have a lot of electric playmakers. In fact, they don’t really have any. The tight ends, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are their biggest weapons. Both are good players at their position, but as tight ends they lack some explosive big play ability. Damien Harris is a very solid running back, but again lacks big play ability.

This would be an issue if New England wasn’t so strong up front. The offensive line is definitely the strength of this side of the ball. They are a versatile group who can both run block and pass block well. In fact, the Buccaneers and Patriots have both allowed the same amount of sacks through three games (6). It’s not a stretch to say that these two units are reasonably close in talent.

Front Seven? More Like Front Twelve.

The Patriots have as much depth as anybody in their front seven. Matt Judon was one of the big free agent names signed this offseason and is a key pass rusher for this team. Behind him coming off the edge are a pair of day two picks from Michigan in recent years, Josh Uche and Chase Winovich. This team also has two more day two rookies from the most recent draft as depth pass rushers in Ronnie Perkins and Christian Barmore.

All this young talent and I still haven’t even mentioned any of the starting defensive line or off ball linebackers. Needless to say, New England is strong up front. They can send wave after wave of versatile players at you in the box. 

The Bill Comes Due

Yes, the big storyline is Brady vs Bill Belichick. When you accomplish as much as those two did together then you’re always going to be linked. However, let’s not overlook the pure football aspect of this reunion. 

Belichick is widely regarded as a defensive genius. And no one knows Brady better than Belichick. If there’s anyone who can draw up a game plan to stop the greatest quarterback of all time, it’s him.

Conclusion 

The Patriots are good in both trenches. And while they certainly aren’t the more talented team in this game, they have the coaching and defensive versatility to make life difficult for the Buccaneers offense. 

The Buccaneers are favored to win this game and they should be. But this is still the Patriots. A franchise where the faces have changed over the last 20 years and the only constant has been success. With the emotional component of this game and brilliance of Belichick, this game could be closer than expected.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail