Patriots-Browns prediction roundup: Let’s not expect instant Armageddon out of Tom Brady

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 28:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots runs onto the field before the preseason game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on August 28, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Tom Brady starts his first game of the 2016 NFL season Sunday. – Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

COMMENTARY

Seems like this Tom Brady fella may take over for Jacoby Brissett.

Deflategate is finished, Brady has served his four-game suspension, and everything is back to normal at One Patriot Place, where the New England quarterback got back to work this week in preparation for the Cleveland Browns.

Or, is it?

Depending on which face-swapping video clip you favor, Brady returns to action perceived as a long, lost Jedi, a Night Watchman risen from the dead, or Peter Pan sprinkling pixie dust upon his fellow teammates. But there’s also a creeping reality that’s being ignored here as everybody expects No. 12 to toss a dozen — or more — touchdown passes against the worst team in the NFL.

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Brady comes back to a Julian Edelman who is apparently having issues with the foot he had surgery on during the offseason. Rob Gronkowski hasn’t been himself in his limited action, raising concerns about his hamstring injury. Now LeGarrette Blount’s hip injury is nagging him again.

There’s limited chemistry with Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan, only built during preseason action over a month ago.

Brady is expected to waltz into the Patriots’ problems and cure them all with one wave of an avocado slice over the masses? After four weeks spent completely out of touch? And nude?

Oh, he’ll be better than Brissett managed against the Buffalo Bills last weekend (Tyler Thigpen would be better than that), but to expect Armageddon to seep out of No. 12’s right arm is a bit foolhardy.

In other words, keep the expectations down to only four or five touchdown passes, OK?

This week’s picks

ESPN: All Pats.

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 24, Browns 17. “Tom Brady. Tom Brady! The return of New England’s superstar QB following a four-game Deflategate suspension is the overarching Week 5 headline in the NFL. Will he be rusty? I doubt it. Also think Rob Gronkowski will bust out of his blocker/decoy role with a day to reward the patience of his fantasy owners. Cleveland is league’s only remaining winless team, but, at home, is capable of a competitive, point-spread-beating game here, especially if RB Isaiah Crowell (332 yards in past three games) keeps on the hotfoot.”

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Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 33, Browns 13. “This is the return of Tom Brady to the lineup. After last week’s loss to the Bills, the Patriots will be focused here. That’s bad news for a Browns team with little talent. Brady rolls.”

CBS Sports staff: Five out of eight pick the Patriots (Cleveland, +10 1/2).

FiveThirtyEight: New England with a 75 percent chance of winning.

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Browns 21: “I smell a potential upset brewing on the banks of Lake Erie, but I’m not nearly ballsy enough to call that shot. But the Browns will give the Patriots all they can handle, since it’s the closest Cleveland will get this year to a game with a playoff feel.”

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 28, Browns 13. “The return of Tom Brady should be an easy one for the Patriots, who will cruise to a double-digit win even if Brady is rusty.”

Mass Live staff: New England across the board.

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 33, Browns 16. “Tom Brady is back, so everyone expects the ultimate competitor to somehow be “extra motivated” for a game in Cleveland. That’s fine, but this is the perfect situation for the Patriots to let him shake off any rust after his four-game vacation. The Browns cannot stop the power running game, and there will be plenty of LeGarrette Blount and a bonus chunk of Rob Gronkowski in their face. The Browns are too limited offensively with rookie QB Cody Kessler to present any kind of challenge to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia. Belichick is a slightly better coach today than he was in the Dawg Pound several years ago.”

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David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 31, Browns 17. “They weren’t great at protecting his quarterback replacements, and it can’t all be chalked up to their inexperience. The Browns are now unlucky along with being unable to get out of their own way. This really should be more of a coronation than a game.”

Peter Schrager, foxsports.com: Patriots 30, Browns 16. “Once upon a time, Bill Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, the Patriots were an up-and-coming team trying to find its way, and this was a matchup. That time is not now. Tom Brady returns from his Amalfi Coast-Ann Arbor-Hollywood-wherever four-game vacation and should come back with a vengeance. But how much more vengeance can there really be? He was pissed off after being a sixth-round pick, he was pissed off after SpyGate, he was pissed off after the Super Bowl losses to the Giants, and he was pissed off last year after the initial deflated football stuff. He’s going to be more pissed off now? Yeah, yeah he will be.”

Bryan Altman, CBS Sports: Patriots. “Point being, I don’t see this being a blowout. And c’mon, how fun is Twitter going to be mid-way through the second quarter if the Browns are making Brady look like crap?”

USA Today staff: Pats, Pats, Pats, Pats.

SB Nation staff: All Pats.

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 26, Browns 14. “This is the week Rob Gronkowski goes off. Redskins tight end Jordan Reed burned the Brownsfor two touchdowns last week, and given Gronk’s absenteeism this season (even when he’s been active), look for the big tight end to finally reward all the people who drafted him high in fantasy. Because that’s what’s most important to the Patriots organization — and of course, to Mr. Gronkowski himself — fantasy football. For the Browns to upset New England — like they did in 2010 — the secondary, in particular, will have to play over its head. That being said, if Cleveland can get productive carries early out of Isaiah Crowell, it will only help the pass rushers later. (More time of possession = More rest for the Brownies’ pass rush.) Oh yeah, Tom Brady is back. Did I forget to mention that? One regular starting quarterback in NFL history has posted a 100-plus passer rating beyond his 16th season in the league: Brett Favre. Brady was outstanding in Year 16 with a 102.2 passer rating.”

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “Deflatey McGee returns to the Patri*ts this week, who should easily dispatch of the worst team in the NFL, without even cheating.”

Globe staff: Four out of five pick the Patriots (New England -10 1/2).

It says here: Patriots 21, Browns 10: It’s ridiculous to expect the world out of Brady after four weeks on the sidelines. It’s just as inane to expect the Browns to show up.

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