Here are the NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady is ahead of in terms of passer rating: Terrelle Pryor, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith, Jason Campbell, Nick Foles, Jeremy Kerley, and Blaine Gabbert. Not exactly the class of the NFL.
Brady is 22d in passing yards, behind such stalwarts as Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, and Weeden. He’s thrown one-third (three) as many touchdowns as Peyton Manning, and fewer than one-half the amount tossed by Philip Rivers and Matt Schaub (seven).
Meanwhile, Julian Edelman leads the NFL in receptions with 20, which only illustrates how hopeless the rest of the young receiving corps has been. Only AJ Green and Andre Johnson have seen more targets among players who have played two games (DeSean Jackson leads the way with 31 over three games).
Assuming that Sunday’s game has to be better than last week’s stinker against the Jets is like saying Heinz is better than Hunt’s. There is no down after that performance, but against a desperate Bucs team, with a coach who knows the ins and outs of Bill Belichick, don’t assume this is a layup for the Patriots to go 3-0.
No pets at Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, please. Without Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, Brady is liable to kick your dog on the way out of the stadium.
This week’s predictions
Zuri Berry, Boston.com: Patriots. “The Patriots are better because they have Tom Brady. The Buccaneers are worse because they have Josh Freeman. With 10 days to correct issues, you have to expect the Patriots to be better. “
Globe staff: Tampa Bay across the board (New England by 7).
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 23, Buccaneers 17. “I don't know about Tom Brady, but I've never played tiddlywinks and wouldn't even know how. But I do know this: The Bucs have found creative ways to lose both of their games at the last possible minute, and the Patriots have found ways to somehow squeak out two razor-thin victories. Perhaps that's the pattern both Tampa Bay and New England will follow in 2013.”
ESPN.com: Twelve out of 13 pick the Patriots.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots 23, Buccaneers 10. “The 0-2 Bucs go to New England to face a Patriots team that will have been off for 10 days. That's big. The Patriots had problems with their passing game against the Jets, but they will get it going. Tampa Bay has really struggled on offense. This could be ugly.”
CBS Sports.com staff: Six of eight pick the Patriots (-7.5 New England).
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 23, Buccaneers 13. “This is the NFL: Patriots 2-0 by combined five points and Bucs 0-2 by combined three points, the margin of error at times paper thin. NE has won 31 of past 34 home games and should safely sputter to its first 3-0 start since 2007. Side note: A chance TE Rob Gronkowski could return from injury. Note II: Greg Schiano got Tampa job largely on recommendation of Bill Belichick.”
USA Today staff: Patriots across the board.
Yahoo! sports staff: All Pats.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Buccaneers 31, Patriots 24. “This game smells fishy to me. No coach knows Bill Belichick better than Greg Schiano and the Buccaneers have lost their first two games by a combined 3 points. After Josh Freeman slept through a team meeting last week, everyone — I mean EVERYONE — jumped off the Tampa bandwagon they were all riding in August. New England’s offense has looked terrible the first two weeks. Let’s not pretend these are the Patriots of old. Upset special. Give me the Bucs.”
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 20, Buccaneers 10. “The Pats are 2-0 and could be 0-2. The Bucs are 0-2 and could be 2-0. But New England is the team with the franchise quarterback and the coach with enough pelts on the wall to justify antisocial behavior.”
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 24, Buccaneers 17. “The Bucs have played better than their 0-2 record suggests. The Patriots have played worse than their 2-0 record suggests. This is a close game, but in the end the Patriots will pull it out at home.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 23, Buccaneers 10. “You would think the sky is falling for the Patriots, even though they have started with two division victories after facing two good defenses. Relax about the offense. There’s time. They don't need to scratch out much vs. old foe Darrelle Revis and the Buccaneers. The Patriots need to ensure Tom Brady isn't cheap-shot by Dashon Goldson or anyone else Greg Schiano has failed to preach discipline to.”
It says here: Buccaneers 23, Patriots 17. The Bucs are almost as desperate for a win as Tom Brady is for a receiver. This game has last season’s bad loss to the Cardinals written all over.