It’s over. It’s finally freaking over. Deflategate. The suspension. The court battles. The false leaks from ESPN. The deceitful and vengeful acts by Goodell and the NFL. The flat out illogical dragging of Brady’s pristine image through the mud. A percentage of a percentage…of air in a football. It’s all over.
Heroes were made…
Stomach-turning antagonists were formed and subsequently intellectually maimed…
The relationship between the league, the commissioner, Brady, the Krafts, the fan base, and ESPN will never be the same. Trust is no longer a consideration. The constants through it all? There was unequivocally no elaborate scheme to gain any competitive edge, the Colts are a laughably flawed football team with a front office completely in over their heads, and the Patriots are (arguably) the best team in the game.
That’s all fun and great, but you know it and I know it. Justice won’t be realized and the war won’t be won until Goodell has to hand the Lombardi to Brady in February.
Just the image in my head is enough to give me goose bumps. F U Tour 2.0 starts this Sunday in Cleveland. Do your job.
Let’s take it around the table and see how the BBS staff sees this thing shaking out…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 300 yards passing?
Niko: OVER. I don’t expect any rust from the GOAT. He’s back and he’s pissed off. Let it fly, early and often. Can’t wait.
Pete: OVER. One of Cleveland's best units is their secondary, but come on. They are the freaking' Browns. Brady should pick apart this team with relative ease. Check down to James White or the underneath man if the play isn't there, but air out the football.
Jordan: OVER. And not even a close one, TB12 is coming back pissed off, he's going to erupt and basically stick up a virtual middle finger to Roger Goodell in the process. It's still TB12, I see a monster game.
LeGarrette Blount: Over/Under 72.5 yards rushing?
Niko: Blount will no longer be the focal point of the offense with Brady’s return, but he should still see a healthy dose of carries to keep this Browns’ D honest and set up deadly play action. UNDER, just barely.
Pete: UNDER. The only way Blount continues this trend of ripping off 100+ yard games is if the Patriots are up by A LOT, which could and probably will happen in this game. However, I don't think that Blount is going to be a focal point in the offense moving forward. The Patriots don't go out and get Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan just to run the ball 35 times a game.
Jordan: UNDER. This is a passing game for New England. Blount won't be relied on for much more than a few runs here and there.
James White: Over/Under 44.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: OVER for James, who was a little more involved last weekend although in a run first game plan. Expect at least a half dozen targets out of the backfield for White.
Pete: Well, well, well. Its our old friend James White. While Niko has a clear man-crush on White, I just don't see him suddenly being a huge part of the offense. Granted, Jacoby Brissett has been throwing the football to these receivers for the past two and a half games, but one would think a check-down back like White would be a phenomenal security cushion for a rookie QB. I hope I am wrong, but I just don't see it.
Jordan: Close, but UNDER. I see White making something happen with his legs, but I just don't see him getting enough touches to surpass these marks.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 72 yards receiving?
Niko: OVER on both, Jules is going to go off on Sunday. I don’t think anyone is happier than Edelman that Tom is back. Wouldn’t be surprised to see 10+ snags from JE11.
Pete: OVER. Nobody loves Tom Brady more than Julian Edelman. This guy was playing like his hair was on fire these past four weeks, and I expect more of the same this week.
Jordan: Not a chance Jules doesn't go for OVER on these marks. He's Tommy's favorite target for a reason. I don't expect to see these guys miss a beat.
Rob Gronkowski: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 62 yards receiving?
Niko: Preseason is over. Like his QB, Gronk’s season (officially) starts Sunday…or does it? With reports that his hamstring injury is still lingering, Gronk’s usage in this game will be extremely telling. If the leash is off and he’s sprinting down the seam first drive, all is well in Patriot land. If he’s limited and continues to mainly block or run strictly short, safe routes, there is legitimate cause for concern. As a glass half full kind of guy, I’ll go with the OVER here on both of these marks.
Pete: UNDER. I completely understand what Niko is saying, but I just don't think Gronk is the type of player that can turn it on or off like that. Gronk loves playing football, and, if you have ever played football before, you know that it is hard not to give 100% effort on every play. Would I be surprised if Gronk has more than one reception for 11 yards this week? Absolutely not. But I would be surprised if TB12 decides to target him 10 times in this game.
Jordan: OVER. I personally think these past two weeks have been planned for the Pats. Get Gronk in just enough so he can not be rusty when Brady returns. With him back, Gronk will also emerge. Big Game from number 87.
Martellus Bennett: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 55 yards receiving?
Niko: Bennett and Tommy B looked like they had some chemistry issues in the limited preseason action #12 saw. The month break certainly didn’t help matters. Would I be shocked to see Bennett go off? Of course not, he’s had a phenomenal year both blocking wise, catching, and running after the catch (good luck taking him down). Plus, we don’t know for certain what #87 we’re getting like I mentioned above. But for now, I’ll say MB falls in line behind JE/Gronk and co. and goes UNDER on these marks.
Pete: OVER. Granted, Brady has not played much with Bennett since he was acquired in the offseason from the Chicago Bears, but, like it or not, Martellus Bennett is the #1 tight end on the Patriots' depth chart right now. Until I see a massive game out of Gronk, I have to think that Martellus Bennett is the #2 option on offense.
Jordan: I don't see Marty having as big of a game now that Gronk should be ready to go. I think he'll still finish relatively close to those marks, but I'll go UNDER on both.
Cody Kessler: Over/Under 235 yards passing?
Niko: The 3rd rounder out of USC has averaged 233.5 pass yards per game in his first two NFL starts. He should be right around this mark again, covering this number in garbage time late. OVER for the kid.
Pete: OVER, but just because the Browns are in Cleveland this weekend. Even if the Patriots punch the Browns in the mouth early in this game and they can never recover, Kessler is going to be playing four quarters of football with a couple decent receivers.
Jordan: The Patriots secondary has been inconsistent at times, and I see the rookie Cody Kessler making some deep throws to Terrelle Pryor and co for some big plays. I'll go OVER by a touch.
Isaiah Crowell: Over/Under 79.5 rushing yards?
Niko: Crowell has had a phenomenal season as the bell cow of the Browns and catalyst of whatever offense they’ve been able to put together (96.5 rushing yards a game, including 134 from scrimmage last weekend). That being said, I think Cleveland will have to abandon the run early to keep pace. UNDER.
Pete: I agree with everything Niko said. UNDER.
Jordan: Another one that'll be close, but I ultimately will go with UNDER here. Crowell has had a really nice start to his season but, come on man, Crowell isn't going to have a big game. It's just not possible.
Duke Johnson Jr.: Over/Under 59.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: Like I mentioned above, I expect Cleveland to give up on the run earlier than they’d like to Sunday afternoon. Insert Duke Johnson, the pass catching back. He’ll gobble up check downs and draws. OVER for the U Miami product.
Pete: Similar to James White or the now-New York Giant Shane Vereen, Kessler and the Browns will need a check-down pass-catching running back to be effective on offense. We saw how effective these types of backs can be against the Patriots last week when Shady McCoy was all over the field for the Bills. OVER.
Jordan: OVER. If there is one thing I've seen from the Pats so far is that they're vulnerable in check downs. Duke Johnson could be a vital target if, somehow, this game is close.
Terrelle Pryor Sr.: Over/Under 5.5 receptions, 69 yards receiving?
Niko: The 6’4 225 pound Ohio State QB convert has had an extremely impressive (albeit inefficient) start to the young 2016 season. He’s snagged 19 balls (on a whopping 40 targets!!!) for 290 yards and a touchdown through 4 games. He’ll be right around these marks Sunday in what should be a solid back and forth between Logan Ryan (more on this later). I’ll go UNDER on the catches, OVER on the yards.
Pete: I LOVE this guy. All he wants to do is play football, and is willing to do whatever is necessary in order to succeed in this league. The Patriots brought him in for a workout in the past year, but they obviously made a mistake in not signing him, regardless of if he was position-less at the time. Nonetheless, UNDER. Pryor isn't going to beat Malcolm Butler or Logan Ryan. Come on now.
Jordan: I agree with half of what Pete said, the Pats certainly made a mistake in not signing Pryor. The versatility of this man screamed New England. Now he's the number one guy in Cleveland. Kessler has to throw to somebody, OVER.
Gary Barnidge: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 55 yards receiving?
Niko: The Pats have struggled with tight ends a bit this year, giving up 5/47 to Buffalo’s Charles Clay last weekend, 5/49 to Miami’s Jordan Cameron, and 4/41 to Arizona’s Jermaine Gresham. Those tight ends are average at best, with Barnidge head and shoulders the best player of that bunch. OVER on both.
Pete: I truthfully have no idea who this guy is. Niko seems to know that he is a tight end, but I am not studied in Cleveland's tight end corps as of late. UNDER.
Jordan: Barnidge is a really solid TE, he does the little things. Unfortunately for him, the little the little things won't help him this week. I see him being a non factor, UNDER on both.
Niko: Logan Ryan vs. Terrelle Pryor Sr. Logan didn’t play particularly well last weekend against the Bills (17 tackles for a cornerback isn’t a great stat in most cases…), but coming off shutting down DeAndre Hopkins the prior Thursday, he’s getting a bit too much slack. I expect him to bounce back against the emerging Pryor, in what should be a phenomenal game within the game Sunday.
Pete: Rob Gronkowski vs. Himself. Simply put, Gronk has not been Gronk since he returned to game action two weeks ago. Could that be because he is saving himself for Tom Brady (Not in a sexual way)? Maybe, or perhaps Gronk thinks that there is still a chance he could hurt his hamstring, which has been bothering him since the middle of August? The Patriots training staff clearly thinks that Gronk is fit for game action, so there is no reason not to think that he should be a full-go.
Jordan: The Patriots vs. their own energy. The Pats are going to be super inspired tomorrow, they just have to harness it. Cleveland always seems to play the Pats tough, the Pats can't risk taking dumb penalties because they're super fired up.
Niko: Jabaal Sheard has a monster afternoon against his old team, racking up 2 sacks and chasing young Kessler around from start to finish.
Pete: HUGE game for Tom Brady. Is that even a bold prediction at this point? 400 yards, four or five touchdowns, something like that. Allow me to reintroduce myself....
Jordan: LeGarrette Blount erupts for a shocking huge game. 150+ yards and throw in a couple TDs for good measure.
Game Total: Over/Under 46.5?
Niko: OVER. The Brady bunch will threaten 40 alone. Plus, Cleveland hasn’t been as incompetent as we’re used to offensively.
Pete: OVER. The Patriots should threaten this mark just by themselves.
Jordan: OVER. The Patriots may reach this mark on their own, and I don't see them pitching a shutout.
Final Prediction (Patriots -10):
Niko: 40-16. Kickoff can’t come fast enough.
Pete: 41-10. Thought I would keep it conservative.
45-14 Pats. I'm so fired up to watch this one