Revenge…. Every year the schedule makers throw up match-ups which from the outset have storylines built into them. This year is no different, it would seem that there are even some week scheduling points that appear purposeful.
Following on from the Draft, my round up of which is here we turn out attention to some of the juiciest games on the 2021 schedule. There are scores to be settled and points to be proven across the board. Who doesn’t love an added bit of spice to contests already full of emotion and passion?
Players will often say that revenge isn’t what motivates them but these guys are the best of the best. They have grown up proving people wrong and that they deserve the respect that they want to be given. Some of these games feature those who feel they have earned it all. Others feature players who haven’t been given a real chance yet.
1. Tom Brady v Bill Belichick (and the rest of the Patriots)
This is the one everyone has been waiting for. As a result, pundits will tell you this is where we find out whether it was Brady or Belichick who was responsible for the dynasty. The actual truth is that it was both of them but people love to take sides. There’s been tension since Belichick tried to move on from Brady in 2017. Belichick (supposedly) wanted to bring in Jimmy G as he felt that the succession needed to take place. Robert Kraft intervened and the Patriots won another Super Bowls, as well as losing another.
Tom Brady will have felt slighted ever since though. To question his talent, even taking into consideration his age, will have hurt. Last year’s ride with the Buccaneers was all about Tom Brady showing us that he is still the Gold Standard in the league. The first meeting between the two future Hall of Famers this year is scheduled perfectly. If Tom Brady can average 289 yards a game then he stands to pass Drew Brees’ all time passing yards record in Week 4 in Foxborough. Don’t tell me it wasn’t scheduled like that on purpose. This is THE game to watch this regular season if you only watch one.
2. Jared Goff/Detroit Lions v Matthew Stafford/L.A. Rams
Well, this sets up perfectly for all parties to show what they can do against their former employers. Will if be Goff who proves to the Rams they should have had faith? Will it be Stafford who shows he really is an elite Quarterback who deserved better teams around him throughout his career? I know which my money is on, and it won’t be close.
Matthew Stafford has been around the league for a long time. The problem is he’s always been stuck on awful Lions teams. Well, he has finally escaped and has found the perfect home on Sean McVay’s Rams team. With the Defence they have there is no reason we won’t be seeing the Rams in the Championship game. Jared Goff will be trying to prove that he is not the bust that this trade would infer. Yes he’s still a starting Quarterback but he’s stuck in purgatory. Contracted to a team going nowhere, fast!
3. J.J. Watt/DeAndre Hopkins v the Houston Texans
Two different types of revenge here.
Watt was a loyal servant who was a respected leader on the team. He embodied the Texans throughout his time in Houston and, when the time came, he was allowed to leave on his own terms. J.J. Watt will come back, head held high, with a respect for the fan-base and, in part, the organisation.
DeAndre Hopkins will have an entirely different outlook. Traded for cents on the dollar by a team who were awfully run, he was disrespected by Bill O’Brian, someone he really didn’t get on with. Hopkins will be motivated to show the Texan brass exactly what they decided to let go, rather than pay him what he wanted. The Texans could have been one of the better teams in the AFC in another life, instead they are a mess. Watt and Hopkins will want to get the win in Arizona to show they are doing just fine without the Texans.
4. Jameis Winston v the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Taken with the Number 1 pick in the Draft the hope is that you are set for a long and successful career with the team who selected you. Winston certainly had the arm to take him that route. He threw for a ton of touchdowns and his yardage was elite. Unfortunately he also threw a ridiculous number of interceptions. He even formed his own club. He is the only member of the 30/30 club, for those who threw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t retained by Tampa Bay after this feat. The same team who then went and won a Super Bowl without him. You could argue that had he had the team Brady had Winston would have had a shot at the ring himself.
He now has the chance to show everyone he’s not another failed Number 1 pick. Winston has been handed the reigns to a Saints team which is stuffed with firepower. Michael Thomas, it could be argued, is an upgrade over Mike Evans and Alvin Kamara is lethal coming out of the backfield. Winston gets to show the Bucs twice this year that they should have retained him. The two division match-ups will make for intriguing viewing and Winston will be unleashing everything he has against the Bucs D. I foresee multiple touchdowns as well as multiple interceptions.
5. Sam Darnold v the New York Jets
Another first round Quarterback showing his old team what they have lost. It seems to be a recurring theme in this article and this isn’t the last! Sam Darnold wasn’t given a chance in New York. They had a horrible Defence and there was no protection in front of him. In 3 years he was never allowed to be comfortable to play his game. He has the skills to succeed in this league but needs a fair chance.
Now in Carolina, he has weapons and a Defence that means he doesn’t have to go out all guns blazing every drive. Yes, he is in a tough division but give it two years. It’s likely Brady will be gone, the Saints may not have worked out life post-Drew Brees and the Falcons will be replacing Matt Ryan. If he plays the long game well he could make the playoffs, often. It all starts in his first game with his new team against the Jets. This is a game I expect Darnold and Co to win and that will breed confidence to take through the rest of the season.
Again, tell me the schedulers didn’t plan this from the first moment they looked to pull the schedule together!
6. Cam Newton v the Carolina Panthers
For the first 8 years of his career Newton was Mr Carolina. He put that team on his back and carried them all the way to a Super Bowl. The pressure showed in his 9th year and his body failed him. He was released after only featuring in two games, given no respect for what he had done for the Panthers.
“They gave up on me”Cam Newton – after his release by the Panthers
There was anger between the two sides at the end and, although he was nothing special last year, Newton will be ready for the showdown this season. The biggest issue may be him remaining the starter for long enough to play in the game. Mac Jones will be sat on the bench itching to get in. There is every chance that Cam doesn’t remain the starter for that long. A re-tooled offence gives him a chance but he will need to improve from what we saw last year. If he makes it then there will be one angry Quarterback on the field!
7. Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
The Playoffs were unusual last year for a number of reasons concerning the Browns. One, they were there at all, secondly, they absolutely destroyed the Steelers. What we saw in the first Quarter of that game with the Browns racing to a 28-0 lead was extraordinary. Don’t let the final score fool you, the Browns had that game from the word go. Steelers fans will say it was a freak and that they are still the powerhouse in the AFC North.
This year we get to find out just to what extent , or not, this is the new norm. Week 8 is the first chance we get to see where the new power lies in this rivalry. Big Ben will be itching to avenge the game whilst Baker and the boys will be aiming to show the world that last year is something to build off, not just a one year flash in the pan. What we are going to see here in my opinion is a confirmation of the power shift that has been coming for some time. This is the Browns at the peak of their powers against a Steelers team that has a lot of work to do.
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