Chicago Bears: No answers in loss to Buccaneers

justin field, bears

It was another long week for the Chicago Bears in a 38-3 loss on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To start, Chicago was never in the game, to begin with. After failing to score on the first six possessions of the game, the Bears offense once again struggled to get anything going until Cairo Santos hit a 28-yard field goal with just 6:13 to go in the fourth quarter.

Throughout the afternoon, the Bears struggled on both sides of the all. The defense allowed three touchdowns in the first half and failed to record a sack. Chicago’s pass rush was non-existent with defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and outside linebacker Robert Quinn being sidelined due to injuries and COVID-19.

Rookie quarterback Justin Fields struggled at times throughout the afternoon. Fields was 22-for-32 with 184 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions. The 11th overall pick posted a passing rating of 44.3 while being sacked four times. The lone bright spot for the Bears’ offense was running back Khalil Herbert, who rushed 18 times for 100 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

Vintage Tom Brady showed up for his seventh career game against Chicago. Throughout the afternoon, Brady was sharp, connecting with Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans for three touchdowns. While Brady averaged just 5.9 yards per pass attempt, the future hall of fame quarterback was aided by a strong rushing attack that averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

With Chicago now on a two-game losing streak, losses against key NFC opponents continue to pile up for the Bears. Through the first seven weeks of the season, the Bears have lost to the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, three teams who will likely be competing for the Lombardi Trophy when the playoffs begin in mid-January.

After the game, head coach Matt Nagy stressed the importance of not letting the Bears’ latest loss feel like multiple losses. This wasn’t a game that anyone expected the Bears to win by any means but many hoped the Bears would be competitive enough to at least warrant not being blown out.

What’s next for the Bears? Chicago will return home to face the San Francisco 49ers in week 8, which will mark the first time the Fields will face fellow rookie quarterback Trey Lance, the third overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants

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)

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).

New York Giants, Chris Godwin
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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).

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

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: New England Patriots

There would be, perhaps, no better way for the New York Jets to open a new era than by ending their losing streak against the Patriots.

The Opponent: New England Patriots
The Dates: Week 2, September 19, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)/Week 7, October 24, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NE)*
The Series: New England leads 69-54-1 (last meeting: 2020, 28-14 NE)

*-(subject to flexible scheduling)

Year one of the post-Tom Brady era was a merciless kick back to reality for the New England Patriots. Yet, one tradition lingered from Brady’s historic tenure: beating the New York Jets.

For all the Patriots’ faults in 2020, they managed to keep their winning streak against the Jets alive, sweeping the annual pair for a fifth straight season. The Jets haven’t earned a sweep against New England since 2000…one year before Mo Lewis’ hit on Drew Bledsoe inadvertently shifted the course of NFL history. New England’s ten-game winning streak is the longest in the series that dates back to the days of the AFL, breaking a nine-game tally the Jets had between 1966 and 1970.

The Jets came close to ending the streak last season in a Monday night showdown in November at MetLife Stadium. New York, in fact, owned a two-possession lead entering the final quarter, but surrendered 13 points over the final six-plus minutes en route to a 30-27 defeat.

New York and New England also met in the final week of the season. Meaningless finales between the Jets and Patriots have been nothing new since the NFL instituted an all-divisional matchup slate for the last week, as New England would often rest starters going into the playoffs. This time, though, mere pride was on the line and the Patriots sent the Adam Gase era note out on an appropriate thud, topping the Jets 28-14.

Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny on the Patriots

Bill Belichick is burdened with a load he hasn’t had to deal with in a long, long time: something to prove.

Few can question the impact and legacy…more a path of destruction…that Belichick has left behind. But last season created the closest thing to a smear one can make on Belichick’s New England ledger: Brady moved on to Tampa Bay and immediately won another Super Bowl with Belichick over 1,300 miles away.

Belichick isn’t like Michael Jordan: he won’t publicly declare that he “took that personally”. But Brady’s instant success in a new locale has to be eating at him a little. Every eye in the football world will turn to Foxboro on October 3, when Brady and the Buccaneers arrive for a Sunday night visit. But the Patriots will have a spotlight on them all season after last season’s flop.

Despite the departure Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and recent retiree Julian Edelman, the Patriots still have leftovers from their most recent glory days. Sony Michel’s third season was cut short by bouts on the COVID-19 list and injured reserve, but he performed well over the final three games of last season (287 yards on 40 touches). Devin McCourty returns for his 12th season, flanked by cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson (the latter earning nine interceptions last season).

New York Jets, Hunter Henry
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in New England?

Belichick did what any supposed villain would do after getting wronged: he spent a lot of money in an attempt to get revenge. 

New England spent over $316 million in free agency endeavors this offseason, a project headlined by swiping the top two available tight ends. The post-Gronkowski situation was even more garish, as Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi united for only 238 yards on 15 receptions last year.

New England remedied this issue by brining in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, dedicating over $12 million in 2021 cap space to the former AFC foes. The Patriots have never been hesitant to use two tight ends, routinely pairing Gronkowski with names like Brandon LaFell, Martellus Bennett, and Aaron Hernandez. Expect to see them reemploy more 12 personnel sets with two elite names in tow.

On defense, the Patriots brought in two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon. He’ll join  returnees Kyle Van Noy and Donte Hightower will re-don the Flying Elvis after one-year absences. Van Noy returns after one year with divisional rival Miami while Hightower opted out of last season in the midst of the health crisis. Speaking of front seven additions, the Patriots also added former Jet Henry Anderson, who never lived up to the $25 million extension granted to him in 2019.

No discussion about the post-Brady Patriots would be complete without looking at the quarterback situation. Cam Newton got off to a hot start but was never the same after missing an October game in Kansas City on the COVID-19 list. The 32-year-old Newton is projected to be the opening day starter but the Patriots used April’s 15th overall selection on Alabama thrower Mac Jones.

When it comes to the quarterback’s targets, the Patriots appear to be moving on from first-rounder N’Keal Harry. Jakobi Meyers returns for his third season after a breakthrough year in the slot (729 yards), while team added Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor from the west cost.

(Photo By Streeter Lecka)

How to Beat Them

-Wow, What a (Pass) Rush 

The home opener against the Patriots will be an early test for the Jets’ revamped pass rush.

Even Brady finds himself flustered by a strong backfield invasion; if not for that of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, for example, he might have a Super Bowl ring for every finger. The Jets played a rare role in a Brady denial during their most recent playoff triumph: on that magical evening in January 2011, the Jets took down the arguable GOAT five times.

No matter whom the Jets face under center, they have to up the pressure. Newton can still move around as he gets deeper into his 30s…he scored two on the ground in the first meeting last season…but this isn’t the same Newton we saw during his Carolina heyday. New England was 3-6 when teams blitzed on at least 25 percent of Newton’s snaps last season. The pressure situation should only increase with Jones in tow, as there would probably be no better way to welcome the national champion to the NFL than a relentless rush.

The Jets know just how important pressure will be. Their most impactful 2021 contract is Carl Lawson’s three-year, $45 million deal that lured him away from Cincinnati. Enough has been written about how Lawson has made a defensive impact despite pedestrian sack totals. The early showdown with the Patriots will give him a perfect opportunity to back the early praise up.

-Push the Patriots off the Pedestal 

The horrors that the Patriots have subjected the Jets to could qualify as the stuff of urban legends at this point. November’s aforementioned Monday night loss, for example, was a positive in mere sense that it was the Jets’ first one-possession loss since the infamous Austin Seferian-Jenkins incident in 2017.

Nothing would symbolize a new era of Jets football better than taking down the hated Patriots. So desperate is the metropolitan area for a sports celebration…the Canyon of Heroes has been vacant to local affairs since the Giants’ parade in 2011 (the United States’ World Cup champion women’s soccer team in 2015 and 2019 notwithstanding)…that plans for a Robert Saleh statue could be submitted if the Jets take that Week 2 tilt. The fact that fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium for an NFL regular season game for the first time since December 2019 only adds to how much the Patriots’ will mean.

But the Jets can’t go in with that mindset. A win is a win, no matter who it comes against. The Patriots are the Patriots…they’re a football team not a boogeyman. New York shouldn’t buy into the increased hype just because it’s been a while since they’ve enjoyed a win over a certain divisional rival.

Saleh walked through MetLife Stadium for the first time in June. Unlike, say, Rex Ryan, the newly minted Jets boss wasn’t looking to create bulletin board material for the New England locker room. Instead, his focus lingered only what a win would mean for the New York area. He hoped to create a similar atmosphere seen during late spring’s postseason endeavors at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, where he witnessed the respective playoff runs of the New York Knicks and New York Islanders.

“I’m really excited to get it going and get that stadium filled where that thing becomes live again like it’s been in the past,” Saleh said in a report from team writer Eric Allen. “New York fans are extremely passionate. They love their home teams, they’re rabid to a sense and it’s awesome. It comes from just absolute love for their teams. But like everything else in the world, you got to earn it.”

“We’re excited about all the work we’re putting in. We’re excited to get the opportunity to earn the same response at MetLife stadium and let the fans light that place up.”

How important is it for the Jets to end their losing streak against New England? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

Walt Frazier’s game-worn Knicks jersey up for auction

In 2019, Walt Frazier’s 1970 Finals Game 7 jersey was sold for a whopping $100,081.20.

Two years later, another Frazier jersey believed to have been worn by the New York Knicks legend during one of their playoffs runs in the early 1970s is up for auction.

The Frazier jersey is among the iconic sports memorabilia items included in the Lelands 2021 Spring Classic Auction.

Walt Frazer jersey front

The auction runs through April 2, with the jersey forking over $8,000 so far after a starting bid of $5,000.

“The jersey has an interesting story. It was worn by Walt in the early 70s. Our consignor’s cousin was an employee for the Knicks at that time. He told us that each player has to hand in their jersey at the end of the season in order to pick up their [playoff] cheques,” Lelands director of acquisitions Jordan Gilroy told Empire Sports Media.

The consignor’s cousin was in charge of collecting the Knicks jerseys before turning it over to the late Danny Whelan, the team trainer for the Knicks’ two NBA championships.

The jersey’s tags are still intact, with Cosby size 46 and wash tag in the neck, partially stitched into the name’s lettering on the back. New York is stitched across the chest in individual lettering, number 10 on front and back, all in orange-on-blue tackle twill, while the name on the back is all blue. There is a minor stain on the left shoulder and a light pencil-written number 46 near the left armpit, possibly because the size was partially obstructed in the collar tag.

Walt Frazier jersey

In addition to Frazier’s jersey, the auction also includes Mike Trout’s 2011 MLB debut game-worn jersey, the penultimate Tom Brady rookie card, and a complete 132 card Fleer basketball PSA 10 set with the legendary Michael Jordan as a rookie.

The auction also marks Lelands’ biggest modern card offering ever, led by a fresh LeBron James 2019 Logoman 1/1 and Rookie RPA’s of Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson, among others. Also up for bid is a 2003 LeBron James Ultimate Collection Autographed Rookie, a PSA 9 Wayne Gretzky 1979 O-Pee-Chee Rookie, a 2003-04 Bowman Gold Chrome Refractors #123 LeBron James Rookie, a 2008 Emblems of Endorsement LeBron James, a 1998-99 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems #53 Kobe Bryant, a 2013 Prizm Silver Giannis Antetokounmpo PSA 10/10, a 2000 SP Authentic Tom Brady Signed Rookie, and a Patrick Mahomes 1/1.

Another auction centerpiece is a fantastic collection of Buffalo Sabres memorabilia, headlined by the actual puck from the very first goal in franchise history and game-used sticks from the team’s 1975 Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Additional highlights include game-worn jerseys and other gear from Sabres greats Dominik Hasek, Tim Horton, and Roger Crozier.

Also on the auction block is Steelers Hall of Famer Jack Lambert’s personal collection, including game-worn gear and awards. The trove even features his teeth holder from his Steelers locker, where he put his fake teeth before each game.

Additional auction highlights include original photos and one-of-kind negatives from the famed Brown Brothers archive, a Bear Bryant personally owned and worn houndstooth hat, a Babe Ruth signed 700th home run game ticket, one of the finest Ruth single-signed baseballs, a Christy Mathewson 1910 single-signed baseball, an Ernie Davis 1961 Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh game-worn jersey and game ball, a 1952 Topps near-complete set, a 1938-43 Mel Ott Giants bat, a circa 1955 Ted Williams Red Sox game-used glove, and an array of Secretariat memorabilia.

The auction also sports a wide variety of impressive pop culture and historical memorabilia, including a Whitey Bulger archive of handwritten letters and the last known photos of him.

To bid for the Frazier jersey and other memorabilia items in the Lelands 2021 Spring Classic Auction, visit https://auction.lelands.com/Lots/Gallery.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets: New deals elsewhere make the case to draft

As a decision at quarterback looms, the New York Jets can take a lesson from Dak Prescott’s new contract and Tom Brady’s restructures.

Tom Brady has taught, or has at least attempted to teach, the New York Jets countless lessons over the past two decades. As Brady plans to extend his career even further, the Jets can probably stand to take one more as light begins to flicker at the end of their tunnel of rebuilding.

Just over a month after he helped bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Tampa Bay…and a seventh ring to his finger…Brady is already laying down the blueprints for another. According to a report from Josina Anderson, the thrower whose “GOAT” label is becoming less debatable with each passing day and the Buccaneers are restructuring the two-year, $50 million deal bestowed to him last spring.

The plan is to open up enough cap space to keep the other key contributors from the recently wrapped Super Bowl run. Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, and Leonard Fournette are among the champions set to hit the market, while receiver Charles Godwin was franchise tagged.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Brady, 44, would adjust his contract to prolong a potential dynasty. In 2014, negotiations with the New England Patriots netted $24 million in cap space that played a role in three additional Super Bowl visits (two wins).

As things currently stand, Brady is the 16th-highest-paid quarterback in football. It’s probably the one quarterback list where he doesn’t appear in the top ten.

“When he restructures his deal, he’s getting a big bundle of cash up-front. But it is helping us create cap room,” Patriots owner Bob Kraft said of a prior restructure in 2012, per Mike Reiss of ESPN. “We are in the business of quality depth management,” Kraft said. “It’s a physical game and you have injuries, and you need depth on your team.”

The Brady situation is a direct contrast to the ongoing passing situation in Dallas. Dak Prescott is now the second-highest paid quarterback in football at the end of a two-year game of chicken between him and Cowboys management. He’ll make $40 million in each of the next four seasons, a price tag bested only by Patrick Mahomes’ seemingly eternal deal in Kansas City.

It’s great to see a high-character, high-ceiling athlete like Prescott get a good deal, but it’s not the transaction that’s going to bring an elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy to the metroplex. With the signing of Prescott, the Cowboys bare sit above the cap, now working with less than $1 million of space. It could necessitate some painful cuts in the coming future…some say talented blocker Tyron Smith could be a part of that, for example.

Prescott’s deal should not be seen as greed on his part, but rather getting what’s necessary for the Cowboys to merely remain relevant. Some have grilled Prescott for a lack of postseason success, but it’s clear he has the skills to be a game-changing NFL quarterback. Dallas had a taste of life without Prescott when he was lost for the season with an ankle injury after five games. A cursed quarterback hydra of Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, and Garrett Gilbert mustered a 4-7 mark in Prescott’s absence. Through four seasons as a full-time starter, Prescott has yet to post a losing record with a star on his helmet.

What do these situations have to do with the Jets? They should avoid a similar predicament in all circumstances.

Unlike the Buccaneers and Cowboys, the Jets’ quarterback future is anything but settled. The only thing anyone knows about the situation is the unspoken guarantee that it will all be over no later than the evening of April 29, the first round of the NFL Draft. Just over a month of relative chaos, however, awaits on the horizon.

The Jets have enough stress with an NFL equivalent of a first-world problem: deciding what to do with the second overall pick. But it seems like every elite, disgruntled, veteran quarterback wants in on what Robert Saleh has to offer, as rumors have linked Deshaun Watson ($39 million in 2021) and Russell Wilson ($35 million) to a green future. Watson and Wilson respectively rank third and fourth in terms of the best-paid quarterbacks, but the Jets, blessed with a cap space number in the area of $70 million that’s been talked about endlessly in the NYC area, are one of the few teams that can perhaps afford to take on such a financial burden.

Tantalizing as such a union would be, however, the cases of Brady and Prescott dictate that the Jets would be best off starting fresh with a rookie contract.

New York Jets
(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There’s a sense of “when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose” with the Jets, which can allow them to play with a sense of reckless abandon under a first-time head coach seeking an identity. With so many holes to fill and so many established contenders in the AFC, ending their postseason drought still seems like a tall task. But progress must be made in this perpetual rebuild, particularly in the franchise quarterback role that’s felt vacant since Joe Namath left Shea Stadium for the final time.

For the Jets to do that, they need to fill as many holes as possible and settle as many of their affairs as they can…similar to what Brady’s doing in Tampa Bay. Save for the front four and one of the tackle slots…which appear set to be anchored by the talents of Quinnen Williams and Mekhi Becton respectively…the Jets face uncertainty at almost every spot on the depth chart. Thus, the Jets are not in a position to dedicate most of their offseason funds, no matter how expansive their surplus becomes, to a Prescott-like situation.

It’s better, at this point, to follow the Brady method and restructure around a quarterback that’s not among the highest-paid names in football. Even if they wanted to even extend Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option (currently valued at circa $18 million, per Over the Cap), that would be a better, more affordable trek on which to embark.

When you accumulate a 30-8 record against the Jets in your NFL career, you tend to teach the metropolitan area a lesson or two. With Brady taking on less to ensure his reign lasts even longer, finally heeding and emulating his example…even in mere roster management…can help finally end the perpetual rebuild.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

ESM’s Super Bowl LV Preview: Everything you need to know

While the quarterback matchup has rightfully taken center stage, Super Bowl LV will be decided through team endeavors.

The road to the Super Bowl was a bit bumpier this time around. Nonetheless, the countdown to the regularly-scheduled has finally ended.

Sunday will mark the end of the tumultuous 2020-21 NFL season, culminating in a slightly stifled celebration at Raymond James Stadium’s hosting of the 55th Super Bowl (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS). The Kansas City Chiefs will look to defend their Super Bowl crown carrying over from South Florida last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who return to the so-called Big Game for the first time since their victory over Oakland in 2003. The game also has the added subplot of being staged at Tampa Bay’s home of Raymond James Stadium, which will host its third Super Bowl.

This game has generated a significant amount of hype for its quarterback matchup, which unites greatness from the past, present, and future. Kansas City will send out Patrick Mahomes, the defending Super Bowl MVP from their prior triumph over San Francisco, while the Buccaneers counter with Tom Brady, who is almost as much of a staple as the halftime show and the commercials combined. Brady will partake in his 10th Super Bowl, seeking to win his seventh championship.

“Could you imagine if Michael Jordan got his team to the Finals in ’98 or when he was older, against a young LeBron James, who’s really the face of the league?” game analyst Tony Romo said of the matchup, per Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “It would be the greatest thing in the history of sports. I think we might actually have that Super Bowl. We might have that game. It just has never happened.”

But, of course, this isn’t a matchup between the Patricks and the Bradys…it’s the Chiefs and Patriots.

ESM has everything you need to know about Sunday’s matchup…

Positional Battle

The Matchup
Buccaneers Position Chiefs
X Quarterback
Running Back X
X Receivers
Tight Ends X
Offensive Line X
X Defensive Line
X Linebackers
Secondary X
Special Teams X

Last Time Around

This is a rare case of a modern Super Bowl rematch, as the two teams previously faced off in the regular season. On November 29, Kansas City took home the finest Floridian souvenir, a 27-24 triumph in Tampa. Mahomes threw for three scores and 462 yards, 269 of which went to Tyreek Hill.

What lessons can be gleaned from that game?

  • Get out to an early lead: Facing a Tampa Bay team that was, at the time, in the thick of a crowded NFC playoff picture, the Chiefs jumped out to an early 17-0 lead on the road and never looked back, withstanding a late Tampa Bay comeback to hold onto the win. Kansas City has made a living off big playoff comebacks…they trailed in each of their three games to the Lombardi Trophy in last year’s playoffs…but champions won’t be so forgiving. If Kansas City jumps out to a big lead again, they must keep their foot on the gas pedal and not relent. Even a 25-point second-half lead wasn’t enough to put Brady away in the Super Bowl…as Atlanta found out the hard way.

 

  • Don’t forget the defense: Hopefully, Raymond James Stadium has a backup scoreboard ready to go. Offensive fireworks are expected, but fans are quick to forget that Brady is only two years removed from a Super Bowl where the final score was 13-3. It may be a dying trend, but defense can still win championships. Kansas City certainly proved that in their November victory, forcing Brady into consecutive interceptions in the second half that helped secure the victory. Defensive antics came up big in the Chiefs’ triumph last season. As they mounted their effort, the unit preserved the win with a late interception and turnover on downs to wrap things up.

 

  • This matchup goes well beyond the quarterbacks: Make no mistake…Brady and Mahomes will go down as two of the greatest names to play the most complex and scrutinized position in sports. But the respective Super Bowl treks have come through team efforts. New heroes have arisen each week, each playoff level. In the conference championship round, it was speedy, reserve receivers like Mecole Hardman and Scotty Miller who helped fuel victories. There’s no reason to believe that the Super Bowl, producers of such unexpected heroes like Timmy Smith, Jermaine Lewis, and Adam Vinatieri, won’t have one here.

The Matchups to Decide It

Steve Spagnuolo vs. Tom Brady

Much to the presumed chagrin of the metropolitan area, there is plenty of local representation in Super Bowl LV. Kansas City has perhaps packed a secret weapon from East Rutherford, as defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo’s ultimate claim to fame is his shutdown of the all-powerful, undefeated unit in Super Bowl XLII. The reunion has crossed Brady’s mind as he comes into the ultimate rematch.

“I think he really caters to the strength of his players,” Brady said this week, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “I think his scheme has evolved different times that I’ve played him several times over the last I dunno 13, 14 years. I think he’s a tremendous coach and everyone seems to love to play for him. I know he’s gonna have those guys ready to go.”

Jason Pierre-Paul vs. The Replacements

One of the most intriguing stories coming out of the 2021 postseason has been a delightful resurgence of Jason Pierre-Paul, one of several Giants defenders who made Brady feel uncomfortable in one of the two Super Bowl victories over New England. Now working with Brady in a collaborative Super Bowl effort, Pierre-Paul has been invading opposing backfields for him. Those efforts culminated with two sacks of Aaron Rodgers last week in Green Bay.

Making things even more difficult for the Chiefs is the loss of blocker Eric Fisher, leading to a reshuffling on the line in front of Mahomes. Andrew Wylie will take on an extended role in trying to contain JPP, as will Steven Wisniewski. While Kansas City has been lauded for their depth, trying to keep a hungry Pierre-Paul under control is one of the most unenviable tasks in Tampa on this Super Bowl weekend.

The Buccaneers will win if…

If you wanted to beat the Chiefs? Be the Chiefs.

Don’t take your foot off the offensive gas pedal. Go for it on fourth down. Take deep chances down the field whenever the opportunity presents itself. And, for the love of all things holy, make things difficult for Patrick Mahomes.

In our coverage of the Buffalo Bills’ AFC playoff endeavors, we’ve talked about how the best way to keep Mahomes in check is to keep him off the field entirely. Since Mahomes too over starting duties, Kansas City has lost nine games. In all but one of those contests, Kansas City lost the time of possession battle. To his credit, Brady was one to note this during the pair’s first playoff showdown in the 2019 AFC Title game. Including the extra session, New England held the ball for over 43 minutes of game time, leaving Kansas City a mere 20 minutes.

The Chiefs will win if…

Their defense is the difference-maker.

Everyone knows that the Chiefs’ offense should not be trifled with, and they’re well prepared to endure a shootout situation. But bigger games have often come down to down to defense, and the Chiefs have been happy to acquiesce. When Mahomes had to leave the Divisional game against Cleveland, the defense put Chad Henne in comfortable situations. Pressure allowed them to shut down Buffalo’s high-powered offense in the AFC title game, to the point where the Bills lost their composure entirely. This well could shape up to be a career-changing night for guys like Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, Bashaud Breeland, and others. Coming back against the 49ers is one thing. But dealing a Super Bowl loss to Tom Brady…

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Buccaneers 27

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Justin Tuck shows love to Tom Brady ahead of Super Bowl

New york Giants, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan

The New York Giants aren’t playing in the Super Bowl, but there’s several names there that fans will recognize. Jason Pierre-Paul is back in the game with the Bucs, and his team’s quarterback is former Giants foe Tom Brady. For many, it might seem strange rooting for Tom Brady because JPP is on his team.

The rivalry between New York and Boston goes deep and Brady was the quarterback in the latter city for an entire era. The Giants went up against Brady in not one but two Super Bowls, only strengthening the rivalry between Patriots and Giants fans. However, there’s one former Giant that has come out and given high praise to Brady despite that rivalry.

Justin Tuck doesn’t praise quarterbacks often. He played defensive end and chased after them on the field, after all. He says that at times, it was even hard for him to like his own quarterback Eli Manning. But he told the New York Post that Brady is approaching greatest of all time status.

“So for me to say this is phenomenal in it’s own right. He’s the greatest football – he’s definitely the greatest quarterback of all time, and he’s approaching the greatest football player of all time. And he might already be there, considering how we judge our stars,” Tuck said.

He pointed out that Super Bowls and longevity are what we judge players on, and Brady is dominating in both categories.

Still, the Giants can say they’ve never been beaten by Brady in the Super Bowl and they defeated him not once but two times. And even as both teams move on from their previous quarterbacks, the Giants having Daniel Jones and the Patriots figuring out their next starter, those bragging rights still aren’t going away.

New York Giants: Comparing Daniel Jones’s turnovers to the rest of the league’s quarterbacks

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Over the past two years, one major criticism has surrounded New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones: he is a turnover machine. Jones simply could not stop putting the ball in harm’s way in his rookie 2019 campaign. He threw 12 interceptions in 13 games and fumbled the football an absurd, league-high 18 times in that same span.

Daniel Jones suffered from a severe case of “fumble-itis” in his rookie season. In 2020, though, Daniel has still been criticized for his tendency to turn the ball over. He is still regarded as a turnover machine just a little over halfway through his sophomore season.

But is this a fair criticism of Daniel Jones in 2020? Has he really been turning the ball over at an extreme rate when compared to the rest of the NFL’s quarterbacks?

The NFL’s biggest turnover machines in 2020

This year’s top turnover machine is not Daniel Jones. Instead, it is another NFC East quarterback: Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz not only leads the league in interceptions (14 in 10 games), he also leads the league in fumbles (10 in 10 games). While Daniel Jones fumbled the ball at an extreme rate last season, he never threw interceptions at the rate that Wentz has this season.

There have been plenty of other, more-talented quarterbacks turning the ball over at a high rate in 2020. MVP-candidate Russell Wilson is fourth in the NFL with 10 interceptions. The G.O.A.T., Tom Brady, has thrown 9 interceptions, already surpassing his interception total from 2019 (8).

Many of the league’s top turnover-committing quarterbacks in 2020 are widely considered some of the best players in the sport. But they do not get trashed and disregarded the way that Daniel Jones does. The biggest reason why: wins. Jones has struggled to win football games in his career. But, coming off of a two-game win streak with no turnovers, Jones has an opportunity to flip this narrative.

Daniel Jones turnovers in 2020

Daniel Jones still ranks towards the top of the NFL in total interceptions + fumbles. But with all of these highly-talented quarterbacks turning the ball over at a higher rate than Jones, it is confusing to see why he faces so much criticism that other quarterbacks do not.

Daniel Jones has thrown 9 interceptions in 10 games. He has also fumbled the football 7 times in that span. Only 5 of those fumbles have been lost, though, meaning Jones has turned the ball over a total of 14 times in 10 games.

Turning the ball over more than once per game is not a sustainable winning formula. The Giants have learned this in recent weeks. Jones has gone two straight weeks without turning the ball over and won both of those games. If he can continue to play at this level, Daniel Jones can get rid of this bad reputation and begin to establish himself as a legitimate quarterback in the NFL.

New York Giants: James Bradberry will face off in key Week 8 matchup against Mike Evans

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight on primetime. The 1-6 Giants will be underdogs at home against the 5-2 Buccaneers who have recently emerged as Super Bowl contenders.

The Buccaneers’ offense has been nearly unstoppable in recent weeks as Tom Brady has begun playing at an MVP level. Tom “Terrific” reaps the benefits of having a slew of talented offensive weapons to share the rock with. But this week, one of his top two receivers, Chris Godwin, will be out with a finger injury. This leaves Mike Evans as the Bucs’ primary weapon on Monday night.

Mike Evans will have to face off against Giants cornerback James Bradberry, who is playing at an All-Pro level through the first seven weeks of the season. Bradberry and Evans have a history, as Bradberry formerly played in the NFC South as a member of the Carolina Panthers. This matchup could be the key to victory for the Giants in Week 8.

Mike Evans vs. James Bradberry

James Bradberry and Mike Evans have a long history playing against each other in the NFC South. Bradberry spent the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers before signing with the Giants this offseason. Evans and Bradberry have faced off twice per year since Bradberry entered the league in 2017.

In 2020, Bradberry and Evans will only matchup this one time. Based on their previous matchups, the Giants should feel pretty confident that Mike Evans will be contained on Monday night.

James Bradberry has held Mike Evans to mediocre or below-average performances on multiple occasions. Only a couple of times has Evans gotten the best of Bradberry. James Bradberry has never allowed Mike Evans to score a touchdown in his coverage.

This year, it is even more likely that Bradberry contains Evans based on the way James has performed throughout this season. James Bradberry is the fifth-highest graded cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Bradberry made PFF’s First-Quarter All-Pro Team four his dominant first four weeks of the season.

The Giants’ secondary has suffered from a revolving door at the second cornerback position. However, James Bradberry has held the defensive together like glue with consistently excellent play as the primary cornerback. It would be surprising to see Mike Evans break out against the Giants’ defense tonight.

New York Giants: Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense heating up ahead of primetime matchup

New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants

The New York Giants will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8. New York will play its second primetime game in a row after suffering an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday night. Heading into this week’ss matchup, the Giants are once again staring defeat in the face on primetime.

Anything is possible, and we have seen the Giants upset Tom Brady in the greatest of fashion, but the Giants will be major underdogs in this Week 8 matchup. Tom Brady and the high-flying Buccaneers had a slow start to the season but have recently emerged as legitimate Super Bowl contenders over the last couple of weeks.

High-Flying Offense

Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ high-flying offense in 2020. After two decades of dominance with the New England Patriots, Brady moved on to do things without Belichick in Tampa Bay. So far, Brady has found far more success than the Patriots, nearly putting to rest the “system quarterback” criticism he was dealt in New England.

Tom Brady is playing at an MVP level through seven weeks of the 2020 NFL season. He might not be winning the MVP race right now, but that is not an indictment on Tom, but, rather, praise to sing for the rest of the league’s star quarterbacks.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have scored 83 points in the past two weeks. Tom Brady is coming off of an elite Week 7 performance that saw him throw for 369 yards and 4 passing touchdowns, and 1 rushing touchdown with 0 interceptions. Brady is Pro Football Focus’s third-highest graded quarterback in the NFL so far, trailing only Aaron Rodgers and Rusell Wilson.

Tampa Bay’s offense has been connecting on countless deep shots downfield. According to PFF, on 20+ yard throws, Tom Brady has totaled 15 Big-Time-Throws and 0 turnover-worthy-throws. He has been near-flawless when airing the ball out deep.

The New York Giants’ defense has allowed opposing offenses to gain an average of 251.7 passing yards and 24.9 points per game. Cornerback James Bradberry has been performing at an elite level, but he will have his hands full when matching up against Mike Evans and Tom Brady.

The Giants are hosting a beastly Buccaneers offense on Monday night. Unfortunately for New York, Brady and the Bucs are out of their sluggish phase. Now, they are exploding to the forefront of the NFL in a dominant fashion. The Giants’ defense has a tough task ahead of them as they gameplan to slow down the GOAT and his talent-loaded offense.