Brady, Belichick in spotlight as Buccaneers visit Patriots
TAMPA BAY (2-1) at NEW ENGLAND (1-2)
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EDT, NBC
OPENING LINE: Buccaneers by 7, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Tampa Bay 1-2; New England 1-2.
SERIES RECORD: Patriots lead 7-2.
LAST MEETING: Patriots beat Buccaneers 19-14 on Oct. 5, 2017 in Tampa.
LAST WEEK: Buccaneers lost to Rams 34-24; Patriots lost to Saints 28-13.
BUCCANEERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (8), RUSH (31), PASS (2), SCORING (1T).
BUCCANEERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (26T), RUSH (4), PASS (32), SCORING (27).
PATRIOTS OFFENSE: OVERALL (22), RUSH (24), PASS (20), SCORING (26).
PATRIOTS DEFENSE: OVERALL (5), RUSH (24), PASS (2), SCORING (5).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Buccaneers minus-1; Patriots 0.
BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: All eyes will be on 44-year-old Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, who is making his first return to Foxborough since departing New England in free agency following the 2019 season. A warm reception is expected for the player who led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles and 17 division crowns while being voted NFL MVP three times and Super Bowl MVP four times. A victory would make Brady the fourth QB with wins against all 32 NFL teams, joining Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.
PATRIOTS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Jakobi Meyers has emerged as rookie QB Mac Jones’ go-to target. He had a season-high nine catches for 94 yards last week. He is looking for his fourth consecutive game with at least six catches.
KEY MATCHUP: Brady vs. Patriots secondary. Even without CB Stephon Gilmore, who remains on injured reserve, New England boasts a unit that has the second-best passing defense in the league, allowing 159.2 yards per game. CB J.C. Jackson continues to be a ballhawk, leading the team with two interceptions.
KEY INJURIES: Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski (ribs), LB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) and RB Gio Bernard (knee) all sat out the first practice of the week. Gronkowski did not travel with the team to New England. ... The Patriots won’t have RB James White after he injured his hip last week against the Saints. Brandon Bolden got most of White’s snaps after he exited. But second year RB J.J. Taylor and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson are also a possible replacements.
SERIES NOTES: Bill Belichick’s first game as Patriots head coach was against the Buccaneers on Sept. 3, 2000. Tampa Bay won that game 21-16. The Patriots have won the past four meetings. … Belichick is 5-1 all-time against Tampa (4-1 with New England). … Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is 0-1 against the Patriots.
STATS AND STUFF: No quarterback in NFL history has played more or produced more in a single venue than Brady has at Gillette Stadium. Since first appearing there when it opened in 2002, Brady has made 157 starts in the regular season and playoffs at Gillette, winning 134 while throwing for 41,285 yards and 304 TDs. … With 68 yards passing in his return to New England, Brady will surpass Drew Brees’ mark of 80,358 yards, most ever in the regular season. It would add to his long list of NFL records that already includes most TD passes (591), most wins as a starting quarterback (232), most Super Bowl titles (seven), and most conference championships (10). … Brady leads the league with 10 TD passes and his 362.3 yards per game are second to Las Vegas’ Derek Carr. … Gronkowski spent nine seasons (2010-18) with New England and had 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 TDs, the most receiving TDs in franchise history. He also had 81 receptions for 1,163 receiving yards and 12 TDs in 16 playoff games with the Patriots. ... WR Mike Evans had eight catches for 106 yards in Week 3, his 29th-career 100-yard game. Since 2014, he is tied for second in receiving TDs (63) and third in receiving yards (8,471). ... WR Chris Godwin had six receptions for 74 yards and his first-career rushing TD last week. He has a TD in six consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. … LB Lavonte David is looking to extend his streak of 16 games with at least five tackles. ... LB Devin White has eight sacks and nine tackles for a loss in his past six games on the road. … LB Shaquil Barrett has six tackles for a loss in his past six games. … Bill Belichick is 63-75 as an NFL head coach without Brady, including 8-11 since Brady left New England for Tampa. … Jones was 1 year old when Brady began his NFL career in New England. … Jones is coming off completing a season-high 30 of 51 passes (58.8%) for 270 yards, a TD and three INTs last week against the Saints. … TE Jonnu Smith had six catches for 78 yards and a TD in his only career game against the Bucs while with Tennessee. … Jackson had a season-high five tackles in Week 3. He has a pass breakup in two of the Patriots’ three games this season. His 11 INTs are tied for the most in the NFL since the start of last season. … FS Devin McCourty had 11 tackles in New England’s last meeting with Tampa Bay. … LB Matt Judon had a season-high 2 1/2 sacks last week, his seventh-career game with two or more sacks.
FANTASY TIP: It might be a good week to start Jones, who leads all rookies in passing yards (737), completions (81) and completion percentage (67.5). He is facing a Tampa Bay defense that surrendered 311 passing yards to the Rams last week and is ranked last in the NFL, allowing 338.2 passing yards per game.
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