Win or lose, this weekend just might bring with it Tom Brady’s final appearance at Gillette Stadium.
In a Patriots uniform, at least.
It will be interesting to note what kind of sendoff Brady gets following Saturday night’s wild card showdown against the Tennessee Titans. In the event of a loss, will the Gillette Stadium faithful make note of the likelihood that they just witnessed Tom Brady’s final game with the team he led to six Lombardi trophies?
If the Patriots win, will Foxborough collectively take a few moments in any case to serenade Brady for his Hall of Fame career?
Would Brady recognize it?
“I’m not much for nostalgia,” Brady said Thursday. “I’m just pretty focused on what I need to do.”
That task is a lot more difficult than in years past.
Barring a Texans/Bills upset of the Baltimore Ravens coupled with the Patriots beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round next weekend, Saturday night will be the final time the Patriots play at home this season. An AFC Championship game is a possibility still, but nothing to truly hope for.
It isn’t the way most Patriot fans figured they’d be saying farewell to their football hero. There should have been another parade down Boylston Street in order to part ways. Maybe there still will be.
The odds would say otherwise, of course. This is the first time the Patriots have had to play a wild card game in a decade. They have been to the postseason every year since 2009 with a bye in hand. Now, with their quarterback struggling and playing without a contract beyond this year, the Patriots have the most difficult road to repeating as champs that the team has ever seen under Bill Belichick.
Brady likely doesn’t want to call it a career. He probably still wants to play until he’s 45. It’s also increasingly looking like that’s something Belichick is not interested in seeing.
Saturday may be your last chance to publicly show appreciation for Tom Brady.
While he’s wearing New England colors, of course.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 3, 2020
This week’s predictions
Erik Bacharach, The Tennessean: Titans 30, Patriots 27. “No matter how they fared in the regular season, picking against the Patriots in the playoffs feels sacrilegious. But one of these teams has three of the best at their positions on offense, and the other just lost to the Dolphins with a ton at stake. The Dolphins! In Foxborough, the Titans, arguably the hottest team in the second half of the season, stay just hot enough.”
Tommy Deas, The Tennessean: Titans 27, Patriots 20. “The dynasty ends here. Tennessee can run the ball and defend the run, and Tom Brady isn’t what he used to be. This is a prime spot for a sneaky-good Titans team to shake up the NFL world.”
Gentry Estes, The Tennessean: Titans 23, Patriots 21. “Surely someone is going to beat these beatable Pats before the Super Bowl. Why not the Titans? They have a dangerous look about them right now, much more so than the last time they made the playoffs.”
ESPN staff: Eight out of nine pick the Patriots.
Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Patriots (-4.5). “If this were any other matchup for the Titans, it would be foolish to bet against a red-hot team with a star back (rushing champion Derrick Henry), big play wide receiver (52 catches, 1,051 yards, 9 TDs for A.J. Brown) and quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) playing at an all-time level (first quarterback since Joe Montana to post a 70% completion rate and over 9.0 yards per attempt). But it’s just too hard to envision the Patriots going down at home in their first playoff game. Tennessee’s defense doesn’t have enough to shutdown a suspect Patriots offense, and a trick play (Julian Edelman pass?) does the Titans in 20 years to the weekend of the Music City Miracle.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Titans 19. “The Titans are playing well as they move to the playoffs, while the Patriots are coming off a bad loss to the Dolphins that has them playing this weekend. They are not familiar with that in their dynasty era. But I think they will respond to it. Look for the defense to take away Derrick Henry and force Ryan Tannehill to win the game. He is 0-6 as a starter in his career against the Patriots in Foxborough, which will show up here. The Patriots get back on track and advance behind the defense and an improved offense.”
CBS Sports staff: Six out of eight like Tennessee (+4.5). Six out of eight like the Patriots to win.
MMQB staff: Four out of six pick the Patriots.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 27, Titans 23. “The Titans aren’t the easiest opening opponent for the Patriots to open the playoffs. Derrick Henry is a hard running back to stop even when teams commit to doing so because of the Titans’ strong blocking scheme. Stephon Gilmore, coming off a rough coverage outing against DeVante Parker, draws the toughness and quickness of rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown. Ryan Tannehill also is no stranger to facing the Patriots. The problem will be the Titans’ defense. Expect Tom Brady to execute his classic short-to-intermediate passing game well and finish those drives in the red zone. The Patriots might give up some chunk plays to Henry and Brown, but they will tighten up to limit most of the damage to field goals. The New England defense also will force a key turnover or two from Tannehill.”
"Collectively, individually, we have to play our best football and I think we understand that." pic.twitter.com/Pqo8DXAw5D
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 3, 2020
Tadd Haislop, Sporting News: Patriots 27, Titans 17. “For all the chatter about the Patriots’ struggles on offense this season, they still finished with the NFL’s seventh-best unit in terms of points per game, and they have the ultimate adjustment-making crew in Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady. Plus, New England’s top-ranked defense has all the parts necessary to shut down the likes of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis, and it will take away what Tennessee does best — the power running game with Derrick Henry.”
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 23, Titans 20. “The Patriots are the Terminator; presume they’re dead at your own peril. And they’re not dead until the metal-skeleton corpse is dismembered, dissolved in acid, and the acid is burned until it fully evaporates. The Patriots know how to play single-elimination football; Tom Brady has 40 postseason starts. Ryan Tannehill? None. Yes, the Titans are the better team. But the better team doesn’t always win.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 17, Titans 16. “Since benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, the Titans have become one of the best teams in football. In fact, the Titans are 7-3 since Tannehill became the starter — better than the Patriots over the same time. New England is just 4-4 over the last eight games. So I’m strongly tempted to pick the Titans, but instead I just feel like I can’t pick against New England, at home, in the playoffs. The Patriots will take this one, but it won’t be easy.”
Five Thirty Eight: New England at 69 percent (-5.5).
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Titans 30, Patriots 27. “Ten years after the Ravens helped inspire the first “Is the Patriots dynasty … ?” articles to be written, Brady is clearly fighting an uphill battle. It’s easy to imagine him playing well and the Patriots still falling short, another example of a team built around defense losing to a high-flying offense in Foxborough in January.”
It says here: Patriots 24, Titans 22. Brady leads the game-winning drive. For old time’s sake.