NFL Picks: Tom Brady will beat Belichick at Foxborough
“TB12” returns to Foxborough to face his former team for the first time, in one of the most anticipated games in NFL mythology.
In 20 years of "marriage", Bill Belichick and Tom Brady lived through it all: six Super Bowl titles, a "Deflategate", a few "Spygates" and, ultimately, a deteriorating relationship. How deteriorated? According to a book that Seth Wickersham (ESPN) is about to publish, the coach did not even want to receive the quarterback to say goodbye; he said that he did not have time and that he preferred that this talk be over the phone. Ouch!
Those two hadn't gotten along for years. They coexisted because they both knew that they needed each other in order to win. Until one of them wanted to show that he could win on another team.
Brady went to Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers signed the players Tom recommended, and the Bucs won Super Bowl LV in February.
Belichick thought the quarterback was finished and Brady did with his former coach exactly what he does with the rest of the mortals who doubt him: prove them wrong.
This Sunday "TB12" returns to Foxborough to face his former team for the first time, in one of the games that has generated some of the greatest interest in the history of the NFL.
Forget about Montana vs. 49ers; Favre vs. Green Bay or Manning vs. Colts. This is much, much bigger.
They are probably the two most egocentric men in the league, face to face and determined to prove who's right.
Whether they shake hands or not, that would only confirm some of the bad blood theories that exist between them. My pick, by the way, is that they will shake hands.
THE GAME OF THE WEEK
Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England
This is, for the reasons mentioned above, the Game of the Year.
With Brady (1,087 yards, 10 touchdowns, one interception) the Bucs' offense has played at the level shown at the end of last season, but it is the defense of the champions that has been so-so in this start of the 2021 campaign.
The Tampa Bay front-7 does not get close to quarterbacks (3 sacks, the lowest in the NFL) and that has translated into an average of 338.3 passing yards, making the Bucs’ defense the worst of the league against the pass.
The champions had a hard time against Matthew Stafford in Los Angeles, but on Sunday they will face rookie Mac Jones, who in the first two weeks had not made mistakes and in Sunday's game he suffered three interceptions in the loss to New Orleans.
If the defense wants to help “TB12” at Gillette Stadium, they have to put pressure on the rookie. Jones has attempted 120 passes and has only been sacked six times.
When the Buccaneers have the ball, the Patriots defense will face a one-dimensional attack. Tampa Bay only generates 56.3 rushing yards per game, so Belichick should have his team ready for 50 Brady dropbacks.
"TB12" knows his former coach will try to "erase" his best target, but the problem for Belichick is that Brady has plenty of arsenal in Tampa Bay. Wide receivers Chris Godwin (19 receptions, 241 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Mike Evans (16-205-2) have pretty much the same stats and, if that wasn't enough, there's also Rob Gronkowski, for whom this game is just as special.
The pick: Although the Tampa Bay defense is vulnerable against the pass, Belichick knows he can't put his rookie out to try and beat Brady in a shootout, so his game plan will be to establish the run, keep as long as possible "TB12" on the bench and trust his defense to make a big play or two. That, of course, is easier said than done. The Buccaneers must attack Jones and force turnovers, like the Saints did. New England doesn't have enough ammo on offense to keep up with Brady, who probably enjoys this victory as much as a Super Bowl. Buccaneers 27-19 Patriots
Jacksonville at Cincinnati (-7.5)
One of these days, Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence will be the surprise of the week. Not this Thursday. Bengals 31-21 Jaguars
Detroit at Chicago (-3)
Chicago is a reflection of its coach Matt Nagy: a mess. Lions 27-23 Bears
TWO MINUTE DRILL
Washington (-1.5) at Atlanta
Will the real WFT defense please stand up? Washington 21-17 Falcons
Houston at Buffalo (-16.5)
Las Vegas casinos expect a blowout. Las Vegas casinos will have a blowout. Bills 31-14 Texans
Carolina at Dallas (-4.5)
Dak Prescott against the best defense in the NFL and Dallas' opportunistic defense against Sam Darnold. Cowboys 23-20 Panthers
Indianapolis at Miami (-1.5)
Jacoby Brissett against his former team. Hmm, I think it's best not to see it. Dolphins 23-20 Colts
Cleveland (-2) at Minnesota
You may not have noticed, but Kirk Cousins has neither fumbles nor interceptions so far. Vikings 27-21 Browns
New York Giants at New Orleans (-8)
Joe Judge is the favorite to become the first fired coach this season. Saints 28-17 Giants
Tennessee (-7.5) at New York Jets
A simple formula: run the ball with Derrick Henry and intercept Zach Wilson. Titans 28-13 Jets
Kansas City (-7.5) at Philadelphia
Andy Reid returns to Philadelphia urged on a win; luckily for the coach, his former team sucks. Chiefs 34-19 Eagles
Arizona at Los Angeles Rams (-5)
A match of undefeateds and the winner will remain as the lone leader in the NFC West. Rams 31-27 Cardinals
Seattle in San Francisco (-3)
Another great game from the same Division and another thriller in Santa Clara. Seahawks 27-24 49ers
Baltimore at Denver (-1)
There is a quarterback who is playing at a high level and has the support of a very good defense. His name is Teddy Bridgewater. Broncos 20-17 Ravens
Pittsburgh at Green Bay (-6.5)
Ben Roethlisberger: you should never play the 2021 season. Packers 27-17 Steelers
Las Vegas at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5)
And if the NFC West has four dogs at the hunt of the crown, in the AFC things don't change much. Derek Carr is playing at his best level and Justin Herbert is ready for stardom. Chargers 33-31 Raiders
OVER / UNDER
Arizona vs. LA Rams OVER 55
Baltimore vs. Denver UNDER 44.5
Las Vegas vs. LA Chargers OVER 52.5
Last week: 12-4
Total in 2021 season: 31-17