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Jay-Bird's Seat: Week 4 Preview




Tom Brady returns to the Patriots, but this time as an opponent.

There's an overwhelming feeling that this one will get out of hand. "Tom is gonna hang 50 on them." "The Patriots are going to die."

Everything will come to a head on Sunday night, the Patriots (1-2) welcome Brady's Buccaneers (2-1) to Foxboro.

It's a game that nobody expects the Patriots to win, it's a game that nobody expects to be close.

Let's break it down:

The Defensive Keys to the Game:

The Blitz

If there is one thing that's well known on how to defend against Tom Brady, it's blitz him. Don't be overaggressive but get to him, knock him off his spot, and disrupt his timing. However, nobody in the league gets the ball out his hands faster than Tom Brady. So can the Patriots disrupt him quickly? Do they have the necessary push and speed to get there? Matt Judon showed some promise in the last game that he can get to the QB, Josh Uche has shown tremendous athleticism, so the cupboard isn't bare. But key #1 to keeping the game close is to blitz Tom Brady and make him uncomfortable.

Coverage

This goes hand in hand with key #1. How do you make sure he holds the ball long enough for the pass rush to get there? Lock up his guys. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Gronk, Antonio Brown. That's an all star team of receivers. It's part of what sparked Brady's interest in Tampa. It's gonna be near impossible to double cover everyone, so who do you let beat you? The Patriots and Brady's Buccaneers run almost the exact same offense. So if anyone could probably come up with a game plan that works, you'd think it'd be Belichick right? If Gilmore was healthy, it'd be less of a problem, but how do you cover an all star team? Belichick and Sean McVay are friendly, maybe Sean can give us a little help with the game plan they used.

Rewind?

Belichick's game plan to stop the K-Gun of the Buffalo Bills resides in the Hall of Fame, part of that game plan was to allow them to run the ball. Let the Bills run the ball, if they beat you running it, you can live with it. Because their passing game was usually the killer. So could it be that Belichick calls the same type of game plan? Don't let Tom beat you, because he's going to want to, let the run game try. Brady will be eager to put points on the board, he's going to be eager to score big plays. They could try to circumvent that by letting the Buccaneers run it. Brady basically runs the entire offense, so more than likely it will be a pass heavy offensive game plan regardless, but it wouldn't be entirely shocking to see Belichick try to squeeze the Buccaneers to shorten the game.

The Offensive Keys to the Game:

Mac Jones

The rookie Patriots QB did not enjoy a good game last week against the Saints. There was nothing to enjoy. He spent a lot of time getting hit, had 3 interceptions, and it ended with a loss. If Mac can right the ship, then the Patriots will still have a chance to win this game and keep it close. The Buccaneers have suffered from a horrendous secondary, but they've been stout against the run. So that might force the issue of putting the ball into Mac Jones hands. The Buccaneers have a solid pass rush, a solid linebacking core, but the secondary has been their significant weak spot. They did sign Richard Sherman, but it's not fair to assume that Sherman would be in any kind of shape that would suddenly turn the Bucs secondary around, if he even plays at all against the Pats.

Receivers

They don't boast an intimidating WR room, but the Patriots might still have the guys to succeed against this secondary. Cooper Kupp tore apart this secondary, and although the Pats don't have a Kupp, they have a Kendrick Bourne who plays a similar style. Nelson Agholor could play the role of deep threat in this game if the offense opens up a little as last week saw DeSean Jackson get free deep into the secondary multiple times. N'Keal Harry may or may not return, and that could actually be a good thing. The Patriots have no real 50/50 threats outside of their tight ends, but he could still create mismatches depending on where he lines up. The tight ends will also probably be set up for success. Jonnu Smith, coming off his own horrible game, adds a vertical threat, while Hunter Henry adds more versatility. Put it all together and the two TE's should be able to move the linebackers away and give Mac the middle of the field, if they don't, then the TE's could be open regularly as was Rams TE Tyler Higbee. The receiving game will obviously be important to Mac Jones success, but taking advantage of this secondary will be the best way to show what they can do.

Offensive Line

The Saints came marching in, the offensive line kind of let them. The Patriots offensive line was not getting any consistent push no matter who was rushing. This week, the Patriots go against another tough defensive front, led by Vita Vea. Vea is an absolute truck in the middle of the defense. He's no Vince Wilfork, but he can disrupt the game with his power in the pass rush and is a clog in the middle for the run game. The Buccaneers also boast Shaq Barrett, who is two years removed from a 19.5 sack season, and Jason Pierre-Paul, but their strength on defense resides just behind them. Devin White is one of the best young linebackers in the NFL, his speed and athleticism is regularly on display, as is his play recognition. He uses his speed to fly around to the football, but he can also use it to drive through the line and get to the QB. Beside him, Lavonte David boasts the same qualities. The two leading tacklers for the Buccaneers defense will cause added problems for the offensive line if they can't locate them. The game can be won and lost in the trenches, and it should be evident in this game. The Bucs have a good run defense, so the offensive line being able to hold them off to keep the passing game alive will be extremely important.

This game could go either way. It could be close, it could be a blowout. But it's two people who know each other better than anyone. It's two systems against each other that basically know what the other is thinking. The GOAT returns to Foxboro. Belichick meets Brady as an opponent.

The Verdict: Probably the Buccaneers, but it'll be closer than people expect.

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