There had to be a time in all those years — not that either would admit it — when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick wondered how they'd do against each other.
Belichick is a master game-planner and has done some of his best work against Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Brady has seen and beaten every conceivable scheme during his legendary career. They both seem to relish in the challenge of going against the best.
Finally, the greatest quarterback in NFL history and the greatest coach in NFL history get to match wits.
Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face Belichick and the New England Patriots on Sunday night in one of the most anticipated regular-season games in years. The Buccaneers are a 6.5-point favorite at BetMGM.
That line seems a bit high. Belichick might have an edge. Brady didn't practice against the Patriots defense that much; in the regular season he'd be going against a scout team mimicking that week's opponent. But Belichick knows Brady in and out. He understands after 20 years of overseeing game plans what Brady did best in the Patriots' offense. Nobody knows Brady better than Belichick.
And don't underestimate Belichick's desire to beat Brady. Brady has already won in the divorce. He got a Super Bowl ring. Belichick could be happy for Brady (though, we'll probably never really know what he thinks) and still want to beat his old quarterback. That's what being a competitor is all about. If Belichick has one A+ gameplan left, this is the week for it. Not to mention that the Patriots are staring down a 1-3 hole if they lose.
This isn't a vintage Patriots team but you'll see their best effort on Sunday night. At very least, it feels like it should be a close game. It wouldn't be right if we get a regular season game this juicy, and it turns into a blowout.
Here are the rest of the against the spread picks for Week 4, with lines from BetMGM:
Bengals (-7.5) over Jaguars
"Blindly taking any team against the Jaguars" rolls on. Bengals won 24-21.
Washington (-1.5) over Falcons
I believed in WFT before the season, and that hasn't paid off. But I have to give them one more chance, against a Falcons team that hasn't impressed me.
Texans (+17) over Bills
The Bills were very impressive last week, and they can score enough to get past this spread. But I don't like double-digit NFL favorites, and there's one thing I can't shake: The Bills play the Chiefs next week. If there was ever a lookahead spot, this is it.
Lions (+3) over Bears
After the Browns trashed Matt Nagy's bad gameplan, how can the Bears be that excited to take the field again? They know they've got a lame-duck coach who isn't helping them win. The Lions have been competitive three straight weeks against good teams, and I think they'll view this as an opportunity to get their first win. I'll take the Lions on the moneyline, too.
Panthers (+4.5) over Cowboys
This is a tough underdog to take. The Cowboys might be really good, and certainly they can score. But I do like the Panthers. They're 3-0 against the spread, like the Cowboys. The Panthers have been good enough that I'll take the points.
Dolphins (-2) over Colts
Two teams that have been playing below expectation. Injuries have hurt them both. The Colts don't have enough juice for me to take them on the road. They'll play well eventually (I think?) but I need to see it first.
Browns (-1.5) over Vikings
Normally I'd look to the Vikings here, because the line is practically begging everyone to take the Browns. They're the buzzier team, they've played better and the line is well under a field goal. But I am buying Cleveland. Their defensive line could transform that side of the ball. The offense can still run it very well and Odell Beckham Jr. looked pretty good in his return. If it's a trap, I'm heading into it.
Giants (+7.5) over Saints
Not like I'll enjoy backing the Giants, but the Saints offense is not that good. Jameis Winston still has less than 400 passing yards on the season. It's hard to lay more than a touchdown when you don't trust an offense that much, even if the Giants are a hard team to bet on right now.
Jets (+7.5) over Titans
There's not a lot of joy, or conviction, taking the Jets. But the Titans' receiver injuries are a concern. The Titans don't have the pass rush to pressure Zach Wilson like the Panthers, Patriots or Broncos did. Maybe if Wilson can have just a little bit of time, and the Titans turn into a one-dimensional offense, the Jets can keep it within a touchdown. Maybe.
Chiefs (-7) over Eagles
I might regret this one. The Chiefs have covered the spread once since last Nov. 1. Now they're laying a touchdown on the road. But a blowout is coming. At some point the Chiefs are going to take out some frustration over their poor start to this season. This feels like the week.
Cardinals (+5) over Rams
It's never the worst idea to fade a team right as everyone is praising them. The Rams are the best team in football right now, everyone is gushing about them, but the Cardinals are good too. They're more than capable of covering 5 points. As an aside, the NFC West games this year are going to be amazing.
49ers (-3) over Seahawks
Speaking of intriguing NFC West matchups, both of these teams have some urgency. The 49ers lost a heartbreaker to the Packers and the Seahawks are on a two-game losing streak. My friend Scott Pianowski tried talking me into the Seahawks on our weekly podcast looking at NFL lines, and he made a compelling case. But, I just can't get over how bad the Seahawks defense has been. Maybe that turns around. But it looks like it could be a problem.
Ravens (+1) over Broncos
Well, we get to find out if the Broncos are for real here. The Ravens have played three 50-50 games already and won two of them, so it's not like they're blowing the competition away. Still, this is a major step up in competition for Denver, and we'll see what we think about the Broncos after their toughest test to date.
Packers (-6.5) over Steelers
It'll be hard to back the Steelers this season. Their defense is good and they'll cover their fair share of games but the offense is going to struggle. Whether you blame Ben Roethlisberger, the offensive line or both, it's a tough offense to watch. On the other hand, the Packers looked like the Packers again last week. They might be ready to get on a roll.
Chargers (-3.5) over Raiders
It feels wrong to take the Chargers. The Raiders are playing really well and should have the home-field advantage in Los Angeles, in terms of fans attending. It'll feel like a Raiders home game. But I want to believe in the Chargers. The win over the Chiefs last week was validation that a talented roster with a better coaching staff could thrive. Either way, it's a heck of a matchup.
Last week: 6-10
Season to date: 24-24