Welcome to Thursday, friends! It’s the longest possible time of the week since we last saw NFL football, which gives our minds plenty of time to wander to the ups and downs of NFL drama.
If you’ll allow me a bit of Hollywood paparazzi phrasing: the NFL’s "It Couple" of the last 20 years called it quits earlier this year when Tom Brady walked out on Bill Belichick. You know all this. And if you’re like pretty much every other NFL fan on the planet, you watched the Great Patriot Schism with a combination of curiosity (how good could Brady and Belichick be as solo acts?) and glee (at last the Patriot Era ends!).
Let’s be honest: prior to Week 1, it sure looked like Brady was the one on the upswing. He’d moved south to Tampa, joined forces with a known sling-it-deep coach and brought some of the old band back together in Gronk. All was looking just fine for our newly minted Florida Man.
Belichick, meanwhile, was as grumpy as ever, with a roster pocked with (understandable) opt-outs and led by a remainder-bin quarterback who hadn’t thrown a meaningful pass since “Black Panther” was a thing. You didn’t exactly feel sorry for Belichick, per se, but you did think that maybe he’d finally have a reason to frown.
Brady vaulted the Bucs’ odds to win the Super Bowl from 60-1 to 10-1. The Patriots, meanwhile, saw their odds fall from 12-1 all the way to 40-1. The money was flowing south.
Flash forward a couple weeks, and, well … which team would you back to go all the way this year?
Both the Bucs and Pats are 1-1, but they’re very different 1-1’s. The Bucs got pasted by New Orleans and looked, well, mildly competent in beating Carolina. Brady has been, by the numbers, one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. His 228 yards passing per game rank 24th in the league this year; his QB rating of 79.3 ranks 29th (!). Yes, yes, small sample size and all that. But Bucs head coach Bruce Arians called out Brady in his very first game, and suddenly the whole do-your-job grind of New England doesn’t look so grim and pointless after all.
Meanwhile up in New England, Cam Newton is having the time of his life, and a happy Cam is a productive Cam. With 276 yards passing and a 96.8 rating, he’s topping Brady in some key stats … and he’s also made Belichick gush in a way Brady never did. (Surely the fact that Brady has griped about Belichick’s lack of love has made ol’ Bill even more determined to twist the knife and praise Cam.)
It’s a long way to the playoffs. Fourteen games, if my math is correct. Much can happen between now and then, but this is a horse race we’ll be tracking all year. Two of the most competitive souls in NFL history have gone from charging forward together to charging straight at one another. It’s going to be fun to see who’s standing last.
Which horse do you back, Brady or Belichick? Let us know. Stay safe.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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