By Kevin McGuire
The New England Patriots (2-2) suffered a rough loss at home on Sunday for the second time this season, but at least they get a short week to turn the page and move on to the next game. This week, the Patriots are back on the Thursday night schedule as they hit the road to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Get ready for Tom Brady vs. Jameis Winston. This one could be fun.
What’s wrong with the Patriots defense?
Excellent question. The Patriots have given up at least 30 points in three of their first four games this season, including the last two against Houston and Carolina on their home field. Tampa may not be quite the same threat to pile up yardage and points on New England, but the Patriots have been unable to do much to slow down their opponents this season. Only two teams in the NFC have scored fewer points than the Bucs, but the Patriots have allowed the second-most points this season (only Indianapolis has allowed more). Bill Belichick has said he is not hitting any panic buttons with the pass rush yet, but if Tampa Bay takes advantage of the lack of pass rush, then Belichick will have no choice but to give it a good, hard look in the next week.
Tom Brady vs. Jameis Winston
Two weeks ago it was rookie Deshaun Watson. Last week it was Carolina’s Cam Newton. For the third straight week, Tom Brady will be going up against one of the young rising stars in the league as he battles Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston is in his third year and some are actually questioning if he should be the franchise quarterback for the long haul. Winston answered his critics on Sunday with three touchdowns and a drive to move the Bucs into position for a game-winning field goal against the Giants, and he has passed for over 300 yards in each of the last two games.
Bucs welcome back Doug Martin
Tampa Bay will have one key offensive weapon back in the mix this week with the return of running back Doug Martin. Martin was issued a four-game suspension last year by the NFL for a violation of the league’s PED policy, and he served the first of the four games at the end of last year. With three games in the books for Tampa, the team made a roster move (waived tight end Alan Cross) to add Martin back to the active roster. It is expected Martin will play Thursday night, although it is not a given he jumps right back into a starting role.
Lopsided series favors Patriots
It can be unwise to go off history in determining how Thursday night’s game will go, considering the Patriots and Buccaneers don’t have a lot of history, but the Patriots are 3-0 against Tampa since 2005 (6-2 overall vs. Tampa Bay). In those three games, the Bucs have been held to just 10 points while the Patriots scored 76 points. Of course, if this Patriots defense holds down Tampa in a similar fashion, that would be the biggest upset in the series history.