The Patriots are the no-brainer favorite to win their sixth Super Bowl in seven years and might be returning a healthy Tom Brady. But what else will affect the game? The Bucs have made roster improvements, while New England is facing tougher competition this fall with Gronk’s injury.
Tom Brady was 27 years old and clutching the Lombardi Trophy with his New England Patriots teammates for the third time in four years the last time an NFL club repeated as Super Bowl winners.
Brady is 44 years old and in his second season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 17 years later. The three-time NFL MVP is on a quest to win his eighth ring, which will begin when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Super Wild Card Weekend.
Although the Buccaneers remained one of the best teams in the NFL this season, they have a difficult road to a second consecutive Super Bowl triumph. It seems like the right moment to list the most serious dangers to Brady’s chances of repeating as champs.
We attempted to limit ourselves to actual and explicit results for this list. Although outbreaks or suspensions of COVID-19 are a distinct possibility, they are significantly more broad than, say, a specific matchup or road game. We also confined ourselves to just using one player in the injury scenario.
The Buccaneers’ most serious Super Bowl threats are as follows, based on the aforementioned prerequisites:
4. Not taking the Eagles and Jalen Hurts too seriously
Every year in the NFL Playoffs, it seems like a favored home team takes its road guest for granted. It’s another debate if Brady and the Patriots achieved it when they welcomed the New York Jets to Gillette Stadium in January 2011.
Although Brady and the Buccaneers racked up 399 yards of offense in a 28-22 win against the Eagles on Oct. 14, both teams have changed dramatically since then. With a knee injury, Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin, who had five receptions for 43 yards that night, is on injured reserve. Brady will not be throwing to Antonio Brown, who had nine receptions for 93 yards and a score against the Eagles. Brown, on the other hand, is hitting the podcast circuit and going after his former colleagues.
The key to Tampa’s victory on Sunday is keeping Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in check. When these teams met in Week 6, the first-time Pro Bowler scored three touchdowns (one passing, two running).
In his last six appearances, Hurts completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,163 yards, five touchdowns, and five interceptions, leading the Eagles to a 5-1 record. During that time, the dynamic dual-threat quarterback also rushed for 290 yards and five touchdowns. Philadelphia’s prospects of pulling off an upset rely on the arm and legs of a promising second-year quarterback.
3. A possible cold-weather game at Green Bay versus Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
When Tom Brady played the Green Bay Packers in the 2020 NFC Championship Game, he wore long sleeves. | Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Brady is no stranger to frigid weather, having played college football at Michigan and spent 20 seasons with the Patriots. Over the previous two decades, he’s thrown touchdowns in bitter weather and snowstorms.
During his time with the Patriots, Brady was 25-4 in games with a kickoff temperature of 29 degrees or below, according to The Boston Globe. When Tampa Bay beat the Green Bay Packers 31-26 in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field last year, he improved his record to 26-4; the kickoff temperature that day was 29 degrees. In the road victory, Brady donned long sleeves and threw three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Tampa Bay, as the No. 2 seed, will only play in a cold-weather game if they meet the No. 1 seeded Packers in the NFC championship game this year. That is, unless Tampa Bay gets struck by a storm, but we’re more likely to see the Detroit Lions win a playoff game before that occurs.
2. An insufficient number of healthy running backs
Injuries and Brown’s temper tantrum destroyed the Buccaneers’ offense in the closing weeks of the regular season. Tampa Bay’s running back room, on the other hand, was possibly the hardest hit.
Before sustaining a hamstring injury in a Week 15 defeat to the New Orleans Saints, veteran running back Leonard Fournette led the club with 812 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. In his first 14 games, the LSU product has 69 receptions for 454 yards and two scores.
Giovani Bernard, a backup running back who typically plays on third downs, sustained a hip injury against the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 and missed the remaining month of the season.
Despite the fact that Bernard and Fournette have returned to practice ahead of the NFC Wild Card Game, there is no certainty that they will participate or perform their usual roles on Sunday. Because of their possible absences or pitch limits, fourth-year running back Ronald Jones, who finished the season with 428 yards and four touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry, might get increased action.
Jones has shown flashes in the past, leading the Buccaneers in running yards with 678 in 2020. He lacked the same explosion this season, and as a consequence, his offensive snap count dropped.
To survive and progress, the Buccaneers don’t need to rely on a ground-and-pound strategy. Instead, Tampa Bay expects the running backs, particularly Fournette, to do what they do best: cause havoc on the ground and in the passing game. Brady’s chances of winning the Super Bowl are slim if his running backs don’t help him out.
1. Tom Brady has been injured.
Mike Evans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are counting on Tom Brady to stay healthy in the playoffs | Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
This one should be self-explanatory. Blaine Gabbert, in comparison to the rest of Tampa Bay’s squad, is not guiding the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl triumph. Kyle Trask, a rookie quarterback, hasn’t played a single snap this season.
If Brady is injured or has a positive COVID test, the Buccaneers will need a miracle to overcome the Green Bay Packers or the San Francisco 49ers. The Buccaneers’ Super Bowl prospects would fall quicker than the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium, even if they avoided everything on this list.
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The “where was tom brady born” is a question that I have been asked many times before. The answer to the question is “Albany, New York.”
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