It'll be the New England Patriots hosting the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. And if you weren't paying too close attention, you may not even have realized that. Even with a Week 3 game still in front of the Patriots, the return of Tom Brady with his defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers has already engulfed the New England area. That's, of course, understandable given that this will be the quarterback's first visit to Foxborough as an opponent since leaving the franchise in the spring of 2020 following a two-decade run of dominance.
That type of legacy that Brady left behind and the icy nature in which he split from Bill Belichick and the Patriots, certainly has this game in the discussion as the most highly anticipated regular-season matchup of all time.
But it's not just fans who are already looking ahead to this game as jabs have started to come out, particularly from the Brady camp. When asked by Tom E. Curren of NBC Sports Boston this week if he believes his son feels vindicated after winning a title in his first year away from Belichick and the Pats, Tom Brady Sr. said: "Damn right. [Bill] Belichick wanted him out the door, and last year he threw 56 touchdowns. I think that's a pretty good year."
And it wasn't just Tom Sr. beginning to put the Patriots in the crosshairs, Brady's trainer, business partner and close friend, Alex Guerrero, also touched on the quarterback's exit from New England when speaking to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.
"It was like Bill never really ... I think his emotions or feelings never evolved with age," Guerrero told Guregian. "As Tom got into his late 30s or early 40s, I think Bill was still trying to treat him like that 20-year-old kid that he drafted. And all the players, I think, realized Tom was different. He's older, so he should be treated differently. And all the players, none of them would have cared that he was treated differently."
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While Brady himself has yet to really dive into this subject publically, it's pretty safe to say that Brady Sr. and Guerrerro -- arguably the two closes men in his life -- are echoing the quarterback's thoughts. Naturally, it'll be fascinating to see if either Brady or Belichick will truly dive into this subject once they completely zero in on each other next week. Regardless, things seem to be reaching a fever pitch and we're nowhere close to kickoff.
"I know there's a lot of interest for obvious reasons in next week's game, but we're focused on Saints here, and on Monday we'll get to next week," Belichick said Friday when asked to respond to Guerrero's comments.
What I want to see, however, is how that game impacts Week 3. Both Brady (facing the Rams in L.A.) and Belichick (facing the Saints at home) have been legendary for taking no opponent too lightly and never looking ahead. Does that change now that they have each other next on the schedule for the first time ever? I mean, they are human after all.
Here are some other news and nuggets surrounding the Patriots entering Week 3.
Mac Jones' deep ball
One of the early nitpicks with this Patriots offense led by rookie Mac Jones is the lack of a deep ball. Jones' ADOT (average depth of target) currently sits at 5.7, which ranks 27th in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. New England has also yet to throw the football into the end zone. Despite that, Josh McDaniels noted this week that he trusts Jones "completely" and isn't holding a ton back from him offensively even if he only has two starts under his belt. While New England would certainly like to mix in a few more deep shots, protecting the football is paramount and is something Jones has handled quite well through two weeks.
As it relates to a deep ball being injected into this offense, it'll likely only be a matter of time before that wrinkle becomes more prevalent. It may be a small sample size, but Jones has shown flashes in that area. He's completed three of his five passes 20+ yards down the field this season with an ADOT of 23.2. We've also seen Jones have nice touch in tight windows on sideline throws over these last two games, including this pass last week to Jakobi Meyers.
Jones also had a number of impressive deep throws in the preseason -- like this throw to Kristian Wilkerson against Washington -- that should have been hauled in.
Jones clearly has the ability and has shown a willingness at times to take the calculated risk of going deep. As the rookie continues to get more comfortable within the NFL and the Patriots system, New England's passing attack should grow with their young QB.
Winston an interesting "What if?" scenario
The Patriots were in the quarterback market over the past two years and ultimately decided against aggressively going after Jameis Winston, who was available both times. Now, they'll get to face off against him on Sunday as the starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. Despite not making a push to have him as his starter, Bill Belichick did praise the 27-year-old leading up to this Week 3 matchup.
"He's a really good quarterback," the head coach said of Winston on Wednesday." He threw for 5,000 yards in Tampa, so it's not like this guy isn't that productive. He's big. He's strong. He's accurate. He's got a good touch on the ball. The offense that he ran at Tampa is a lot different than the offense he's running in New Orleans, but I think fundamentally he's just a big, strong guy that can throw the ball accurately. He's very good down the field. He's a tough guy to tackle. He's strong in the pocket. He can make every throw on the field. I mean, he's pretty good."
Of course, what likely prevented the Patriots from truly pursuing Winston was his turnover rate. For his career, Winston has 90 interceptions and 50 fumbles. Being that loose with the football won't get you on Belichick's radar. That said, Winston is a fascinating what-if scenario had New England been able to sign him and coach some of those turnovers out of him.
Cam Jordan raises eyebrows
On Thursday, Saints star defensive end Cam Jordan seemed to put the spotlight on Bill Belichick. When asked about his impression of a coach of Belichick's stature, Jordan had a comment that raised a few eyebrows.
"He's a top tier coach that will clearly do anything to win," said Jordan, as transcribed by Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. "Take that how you want.
Of course, Jordan could actually have been giving Belichick a compliment here, but the implication is that he's pointing to New England's various cheating scandals over his tenure. While this does seem to be coming out of left field by Jordan, it's always fun to have some bulletin board material heading into a game.
Julian Edelman to be honored at halftime
The Patriots announced this week that they will honor recently retired wide receiver Julian Edelman during halftime of Sunday's matchup with New Orleans. The three-time Super Bowl champion announced his retirement last spring after spending his entire 12-year NFL career with the Patriots. He is second all-time in franchise history in receptions (620), fourth in receiving yards (6,822) and ninth in receiving touchdowns (36). Edelman is also second all-time in NFL history with 118 postseason receptions, only looking up to Jerry Rice.
"He had a tremendous career," Belichick said on Edelman. "He had tremendous production in every area. Receiving and running after catch and punt returns and was a good blocker. Really tough, competitive kid. Right up there at the top of the guys that I've coached, and so it'll be great to see Julian assuming that he doesn't like roast me or get into a big impersonation, but it'll be great to see him again and recognize him for the great career that he had here and how much he meant to this team, this organization, and how much he stepped up for us in big games, you know, year after year, week after week."
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