When the Buccaneers travel to face the Patriots in New England on “Sunday Night Football” in the penultimate game of NFL Week 4, all eyes will be on Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick in the ultimate revenge game. But don’t forget about Brady’s top tight end Rob Gronkowski and third wide receiver Antonio Brown, who also didn’t have the most comfortable departures from Belichick.
Beyond the individual drama, the Buccaneers are the reigning Super Bowl 55 champions, at 2-1 after losing to the Rams on the road. The Patriots, who were a sub-.500 non-playoff team in 2020, are 1-2, having lost a battle of attrition to the Dolphins and being ripped by the Saints last week.
The Bucs are unfazed by the road, as they ran through it all the way as wild-card team in last year’s playoffs. The Patriots are 0-2 at home to start the season.
Here’s how Sporting News sees Brady vs. Belichick going down, and the results might not be pretty for the Patriots:
Buccaneers vs. Patriots odds for ‘Sunday Night Football’
- Spread: Buccaners by 7
- Over/under: 49.5
- Moneyine: Buccaneers -300, Patriots +245
(betting odds per FanDuel Sportsbook)
The spread has stayed around a touchdown all week, going a little higher (half-point) toward the Buccaneers side. It still seems low given the quality of the teams overall.
Buccaneers vs. Patriots all-time series
The Patriots have met the Buccaneers only nine times. They have a 7-2 record. They have won four consecutive meetings going back to 2005. The Bucs’ only two wins came back-to-back in 1997 and 2000. But none of those have been with Brady as a Buccaneer, who is trying to beat the only team he hasn’t in the NFL.
Three trends to know
— 94 percent of spread bettors are feeling the Patriots to cover, despite their terrible performance at home against the weaker Saints last week
— 60 percent of over/under bettors think the total is too low based on Brady being on the field against his former team.
— The Buccaneers are 9-1 in their past 10 games, 6-4 against the spread with seven of the games going over. The Patriots are 4-6 SU and ATS in their past 10 games, with the total going over only once.
Three things to watch
Who will the Patriots take away?
New England loves playing teams that have one primary offensive cog that puts everything else in motion. But Tampa Bay has mutiple dangerous skill options, starting with wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin before getting into a deep, loaded quiver of wideouts and tight ends. Godwin might be easier given his slot status, but the Patriots also could focus to take the big play from Evans (or Brown) away and force Brady to lead long drives.
How will Jones respond?
Jones has a lot of pressure on him to show flashes that he can be adequate long-term replacement for Brady. He had his first awful game as a rookie last week, as the Patriots could no longer protecting from taking chances and throwing too much with such a negative game script against the Saints. He will face a defense under Todd Bowles that will bring calculated pressure to force him into more inexperienced mistakes.
The Brady-Belichick chess match
Brady will try to stay one move ahead of his former head coach, and vice versa. Brady knows what to expect from Belichick’s scheming and Belichick knows his old GOAT QB’s weaknesses. The Bucs need to anticipate what Belichick will do and work against it. The Patriots simply might not have the personnel to execute vs. Brady, who might be matchup-proof this season.
Stat that matters
60. Brady leads the NFL with 10 TD passes. He has finished first in that category three times in his all-time great career. He’s on pace for 60, his best season since dropping 50 into the end zone in 2007. He is motivated to re-break the record, which is now up to 55, held by Peyton Manning. He is not about to let the Patriots get in his way of making more history at age 44.
Buccaneers vs. Patriots prediction
Brady has the major advantage in this matchup because his team does, too. The Patriots, minus Stephon Gilmore, have the secondary to take away only one of his myriad weapons. He should welcome it being Evans or Godwin, because that means he can make sure Gronkowski and Brown join him in the monster revenge effort. Jones needs the running game to help him, which won’t happen vs. the Bucs’ run defense. Tampa Bay will tee off on the rookie much like New Orleans did to clean up a blowout rout.
Buccaneers 38, Patriots 10