Week 4 of the NFL is obviously headlined by Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium. It’s widely believed that Brady’s departure from New England wasn’t as clean and professional as Brady would like us all to believe. At the same time, Brady has come out and stated that his exit from the Patriots was not nearly as ugly as the media made it out to be.
However, with so many rumors swirling around, such as Belichick’s alleged infatuation with Jimmy Garoppolo — even going as far as believing Jimmy G to be the heir apparent to Brady — and Belichick allegedly refusing to meet with Brady after the quarterback announced he would not return to New England, it’s hard to believe that there wasn’t at least some truth to the stories involving Brady and Belichick’s rift prior to the 2020 season.
Now, on Sunday, the two will reunite as members of opposing teams for the first time in their careers. So... who has the advantage? The legendary coach, or the legendary signal-caller? Well, obviously Brady has the advantage. He’s on a much better team and coming off a Super Bowl win without that coach, so I guess the question really is, can Belichick pull off the upset?
The short answer: Yes. Just take a look at how former quarterbacks have done against their old head coaches. The most obvious example is Drew Bledsoe. After being replaced by Brady, Bledsoe would go on to face the Patriots six times in his career. He went 1-5 with a -78 point differential. Not a great revenge tour.
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Another example includes quarterback Alex Smith losing to 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh in Week 5 of 2014, 22-17. As a member of the Buffalo Bills, Tyrod Taylor squared off against his former head coach, John Harbaugh, in Week 1 of the 2016 season, and lost 13-7. And if you’re looking for an example of one who got the better of their former coach, look no further than Joe Montana, who took down the George Seifert-led 49ers in Week 2 of the 1994 season 24-17.
Brady is obviously much closer to Montana than either Smith or Taylor, so if history is any indicator, I like Brady’s chances of walking away from Foxborough with a win. Not to mention, Brady is 20-4 in his career in games immediately following regular season losses of 10 points or more. He doesn’t like to get embarrassed two games in a row, and I doubt he will this weekend.
The other big storyline revolves around the remaining undefeated teams. There are only five teams left without a blemish on their record: the Panthers, Raiders, Cardinals, Rams, and Broncos. All five of these teams get a serious test in Week 4.
The big matchup is between two of these undefeated teams. The Cardinals and Rams have been two of the most impressive teams thus far. However, while the Rams are fresh off taking down Brady and the reigning champs. The Cardinals are coming off a... shall we say “less than stellar” win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, the Cards won by two scores, but they were actually losing at half and were up by only five at the end of the third quarter. For a team that supposedly has Super Bowl aspirations in 2021, it was not a good look.
That being said, there’s a saying in sports: “Teams are most vulnerable after emotional wins.” The Jaguars almost took advantage of the Cardinals after the Birds eked out a victory over the Minnesota Vikings the week prior. Now, the Cardinals have an opportunity to take advantage of the Rams. While Los Angeles’s game against Tampa wasn’t nearly as close as Arizona’s game against Minnesota, the magnitude of those wins feels very similar. Nobody was sure just how solid this Rams team was until they tossed the reigning Super Bowl champs around for 60 minutes. They knew the entire NFL world was going to judge them based on their performance, and they put their best foot forward. That win feels great, and for the Rams’ sake, hopefully Sean McVay brought his team back down to Earth before practice at the beginning of this week. The Rams are on Cloud 9 and the Cardinals have the talent to make them pay if they’re not prepared.
The other undefeated teams each get tough matchups of their own. The Raiders get the Chargers, fresh off taking down the Chiefs. The Panthers get the Cowboys, who’ve proven to be one of the most potent offenses in the NFL through three weeks, and the Broncos get the Ravens, who are two weeks removed from taking down the Chiefs. These three teams are the black sheep of the NFL’s winning teams. We’re not quite sure how solid each team really is. Of these three, the Raiders have the most impressive resume, with wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh. However, the fact that the Miami Dolphins, who were playing without their starting quarterback, took the Raiders to overtime, does not bode well for their matchup with Los Angeles this week.
As for the Panthers, they will be without star halfback Christian McCaffrey. The Cowboys have been pretty solid against the run this year, but McCaffrey’s skillset still would’ve served the Panthers well in the pass game. Carolina now turns to rookie running back Chubba Hubbard out of Oklahoma State. While Hubbard looked solid in Week 3 after McCaffrey went down, he didn’t show the explosiveness we expected out of someone who rushed for over 2000 yards and 21 touchdowns his sophomore season in college. The Panthers will need their offense firing on all cylinders if they want to keep up with the Cowboys, so Hubbard will have to step up if he wants his team to remain undefeated.
All in all, this seems to be the week where we figure out which teams are really contenders and which teams just got off to a hot start. The quarter season mark has always been a good benchmark for determining how the season will unfold, so keep your eyes peeled folks.