Tom Brady is back. I repeat: Tom Brady is back. The four-time Super Bowl champion is back this week after serving his suspension for his “involvement” in the “Deflategate” scandal. He will be looking to get himself back into a rhythm, and he will likely be putting the NFL on notice. This will be most noticed in the fourth quarters of games. We may see Brady and Belichick keep their feet on the gas pedal late in games. At the same time, however, it’s tough to judge what Belichick will do. He may just try and keep Brady healthy, which would involve running the ball in the fourth quarter if there is a lead.
From New England’s offense, I expect them to come out firing. Brady needs to get used to taking hits and throwing the ball at the speed of the NFL. They will begin throwing the ball a lot and using some run here and there. The Patriots go to a run-first team to a “run to keep the defense honest” team.
It will be interesting to see how Brady uses his weapons. He will finally get the opportunity to work with Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan, and a mostly-healthy Gronk. As of this moment, we don’t know if Julian Edelman will be out there as he is dealing with a foot injury. LeGarrette Blount is also dealing with a hip injury, but I assume he will do everything he needs to to play, because of a clause that he has in his contract relating to missing time with hip injuries.
There is really nothing the Cleveland Browns’ defense can do to stop this offense. They have been one of the worst defenses in the league, and they really only have two potential play-makers in CB Joe Haden and NT Danny Shelton. This should leave plenty of opportunity for the Patriots to score and score often.
Cleveland’s offense actually hasn’t been that bad. Rookie QB Cody Kessler has played fairly well in his short time as starter after Josh McCown went down. Their two biggest weapons are RB Isaiah Crowell and WR Terrelle Pryor. Crowell is third in rushing yards this year behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliot and Cardinals’ David Johnson, who already played this week. This year is kind of a shock to NFL fans, because Crowell has never been an extremely productive back, and many thought that RB Duke Johnson Jr. would take over the starting role at some time this year.
Pryor is an extremely talented player. He has great hands and great quickness. He can make a guy miss and make teams pay for missed tackling by gaining a ton of yards after contact. Pryor also has the ability to play running back and quarterback. His skill-set is versatile, and the Browns use every aspect. He is the guy the Patriots should be most focused on. Malcolm Butler has got to stick with him and be solid with his tackles, as the entire defense should focus on after last week.
With Rob Ninkovich back this week as well, we should see better results setting the edge. This means that Crowell will have to run up the middle if he wants to be successful, and that will be a tough task with Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins patrolling that area. Now, they just need to make sure they sure up the poor tackling from last week.
Prediction: Patriots 38 Browns 17