Tom Brady isn’t done with the New York Jets just yet, as he and the defending champions ring in the new year with a visit to East Rutherford.
The Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Date: Week 16, January 2, 1 p.m. ET, Fox (@ NY)
The Series: Jets lead 10-2 (last meeting: 2017, 15-10 TB)
- PART I: Carolina Panthers
- PART II: New England Patriots
- PART III: Denver Broncos
- PART IV: Tennessee Titans
- PART V: Atlanta Falcons
- PART VI: Cincinnati Bengals
Just when the New York Jets thought the Tom Brady nightmare was over, the defending Super Bowl champions have forced them back to sleep.
Fortunately, the Jets only have to face the arguable GOAT only once this time around, as opposed to what was an annual double dose of pain bestowed by Brady and his New England compatriots. Their quadrennial get-together with Brady’s new group from Tampa Bay will serve as the Jets’ home finale. Time will tell if the Jets are ringing in the new calendar year with a positive outlook, while the Buccaneers will possibly be prepping for a Super Bowl title defense. This will mark Tampa’s second-ever visit to MetLife Stadium to play the Jets and their first since 2013.
Brady will be searching for his 30th win against the Jets, his second-best tally against any opponent, behind only the 32 victories he has tallied against the Buffalo Bills. As defending champions, the Buccaneers will open in Week 1’s traditional Thursday night spot, taking on the Dallas Cowboys at home (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).
The Skinny On the Buccaneers
Claiming that a defending Super Bowl champion is built for a long-haul dynasty is a tried storyline, especially since so many “they’ll be back in no time” contenders (i.e. Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Francisco) have quickly faded into obscurity. But Tampa Bay locked up several of its major pieces from the championship trek: they franchise tagged Chris Godwin and re-upped with Leonard Fournette, Lavonte David, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and Steve McLendon (obtained through the Jets’ in-season fire sale).
Mere months after they became the first team to both host and win a Super Bowl, Tampa Bay also became the first team in the salary cap era to retain all 22 of their offensive/defensive starters. Leave it to a Brady-led squad to accomplish historical firsts in the name of adding more rings, it appears.
“The bond that we had, the bond that we shared this year, it’s like no other, with the coaching staff included,” the tenured Tampa linebacker David said of the bond build during the title run, per Buccaneers team reporter Carmen Vitali. “Everybody is a real tight-knit group and that’s something I haven’t been around in a while and it’s something I definitely want to be a part of.”
Re-upping with their champions was made possible in part due to a contract restructuring on Brady’s end. Not only does his adjusted contract keep him in Tampa through the 2022 season but also saved the team $19 million in cap space.
“(Brady) has proven himself to be the ultimate competitor and delivered in every way we had imagined, helping us capture the Lombardi Trophy,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht in team statement announcing the deal. “Year after year, Tom proves that he remains one of the elite quarterbacks in this game and we couldn’t be happier to keep him in Tampa Bay as we continue to pursue our goals together.”
Of course, Brady didn’t earn his seventh title on his own. He was anchored by a strong support system headlined by Tampa’s offensive line, one that allowed only 22 sacks (fourth-best tally in the NFL) and allowed a run game headlined by Fournette and Ronald Jones to work wonders. Tristan Wirfs proved to be well worth the draft day trade-up (allowing only one sack) while blindside anchor Donovan Smith earned a contract extension.
Defensively, the Buccaneers (under ex-Jets head coach turned Tampa coordinator Todd Bowles) proved their worth long before providing a blueprint on how to neutralize Patrick Mahomes. They had the top-ranked run defense in the league (80.6 yards per game) and ranked second in the NFC in takeaways (25).
Your weekly reminder that the Bucs got Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (strip sack) at pick 32pic.twitter.com/D2EB27rPtH
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) August 29, 2021
What’s New In Tampa Bay?
The Buccaneers understandably kept the adjustments to a minimum after the full retainment. They bolstered their run game through the addition of former Bengal Giovani Bernard and obtained several projects through the draft.
Tampya used its first pick, the traditional 32nd slot assigned to the defending champion, on linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. It might’ve been easy for the Washington alum to fade into the background, especially with Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul back for another go at it, but he instead became one of Tampa’s most dangerous pass-rushing threats during the preseason.
“Joe is going to be amazing. He’s doing stuff that I’m looking at and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I would of knew that when I was a rookie,’” Pierre-Paul said of Tryon-Shoyinka, per Jenna Laine of ESPN. “He’s doing amazing stuff out there…He’s been moving since day one when he got here. From there to now, he’s been moving tremendously. He just has to stay on his feet. I had that problem myself.”
Tampa also potentially prepped for the post-Brady by drafting Florida thrower Kyle Trask in the second and opened day three with Sun Belt weapon Jaelon Darden. Scorer of 31 touchdowns during his final two seasons at North Texas, Darden is already listed as the team’s primary returner.
How to Beat Them
-Break On Through
Brady may be the greatest, but he’s still only human: the Jets’ blue, East Rutherford co-tenants proved that by raising the pressure.
Cliche as “getting to the quarterback” has become…perhaps the gridiron equivalent of “pucks on net/pucks deep“…it’s a formula that’s as true as it is tired and could take on greater importance for the aging Brady; Tampa Bay was 1-3 when Brady was sacked at least three times. The Wild Card playoff tilt against Washington was closer than it had any right to be simply because the opposing Football Team raised the pressure. Tampa’s strong blocking corps was able to handle the threat and upped its game for the rest of the postseason, allowing only three sacks en route to the hometown Super Bowl.
That’s why the Jets, in part, opted to raise their pressure game. Everyone knows, by now, about the lack of Carl Lawson. But the team has newfound faith in its front seven after the breakthroughs of Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers. The late addition of Shaq Lawson should help them tread water as well.
-The Best Defense…A Good (Young) Offense
By the time the Jets square off against the Buccaneers, Zach Wilson and company will (hopefully) have had 15 games to get used to each other’s talents and idiosyncrasies.
Even if the Jets are long removed from the playoff picture (again, appearing in the “In the Hunt” column on the annual playoff charts that show up near the holidays should be enough of a win at this point), beating Tampa Bay would be such a boost of confidence for the future, a realistic “throat-clearing” gesture that can put the rest of the league on notice.
To do that, the Jets should take advantage of Tampa’s defense, which could be working through the difficulties of an extended season and a Super Bowl hangover. There’s plenty of talent and experience to go around, enough to keep the Buccaneers amongst the penthouse dwellers of the NFL’s elite. But Pierre-Paul and Suh are working through their 30s while other staples like McLendon and William Gholston are no spring chickens by NFL standards either.
There’d be no better way for the Jets to light the path to a hopeful feature by using their young offense to top the defending Super Bowl champions just two days into a new calendar year. It’s up to their progress over the first 15 games to give them a chance to make such a statement.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags