“This is the GOAT versus the BOAT,” as Good Morning Football‘s Kyle Brandt so fittingly advertised it. It’s a statement sure to fuel debate, but one with substance.
Tom Brady has the six Super Bowl rings from his nine appearances in total, and Aaron Rodgers the highest passer rating in NFL history. The greatest of all time versus the best of all time? You decide.
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For the pair to be facing off in 2020 for just the third time ever is the treat the NFL had forgotten was on its way, which is testament to the rising stars in their position drawing eyes elsewhere in the league.
The Patrick Mahomes’, Lamar Jacksons and Deshaun Watsons may be the trendy new kids on the block, but Brady and Rodgers embody everything they aspire to be, from dynasty dominance to, perhaps, the most gifted quarterback the game has seen.
It’s honours even in this criminally underplayed duel, Rodgers inspiring the Green Bay Packers to a 26-21 home win in 2014, before Brady led the Patriots to a 31-17 victory in Foxborough in 2018. Rodgers was absent with a concussion in 2010 as Matt Flynn started at quarterback in a 31-27 win for Brady and the Patriots.
“You got the Tampa Bay Bradys vs. the Green Bay Rodgers. That’s the way I look at this game. It’s a one-on-one battle,” Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, very much tongue in cheek, joked this week.
The world wondered which Aaron Rodgers would step out this season. Angry, riled up, somewhat frosty proved the general consensus as fabrications of him being a poor teammate resurfaced in the wake of the Packers drafting quarterback Jordan Love in the first round.
He wasn’t thrilled the Packers had momentarily considered life without him, overlooking the most talented wide receiver class in recent memory in the process. Of course he wasn’t, no storied quarterback would.
Rodgers isn’t angry, though, but instead relaxed. Menacingly relaxed. The narrative indicative of Love’s arrival serving as added motivation may have some truth to it, but it’s more likely the year of experience in Matt LaFleur’s offense that has enriched one of the league’s far-too-early MVP frontrunners.
Right now, he cuts the figure of a man with it all worked out.
For some, the fan-less atmosphere presents a challenge in itself, but for Rodgers it has only amplified his offside-luring hard count as a thing of beauty.
He leads the league with a 92.5 quarterback rating and sits second to Russell Wilson with a 128.4 passer rating, excelling behind a much-improved offensive line that has limited opponents to just three sacks, six hits and 18 pressures.
He’s also thrown 13 touchdown passes to zero interceptions this season, a reflection of not only his surgical start to the year but also the trust he has built in a receiver corps that was, barring Davante Adams, subject to constant doubts in 2019.
Off the field he has been attentive to the development of Love while maintaining a focus on his own pursuit of a second Super Bowl ring. And every Tuesday he spends time talking ball on The Pat McAfee Show in a once-not-so-Rodgers-like depiction of how laid back he is at the moment, furthering that message by wearing a T-shirt with his own name and face on it in the second week.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, but I sometimes laugh when people talk about down years for me because a lot of times down years for me are career years for most quarterbacks. It’s just the facts, bro,” Rodgers said on a recent edition of the show.
A smiley, feet-up Rodgers equates to a pretty scary Rodgers.
Brady still adapting in Tampa
As for Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers struggling as they are this season demands an even greater appreciation for what he is still capable of, and that is helping the Bucs assert themselves as very real contenders in the NFC.
Brushing over his fourth down blunder and the defeat to the Chicago Bears, Brady sits 3-2 with the Bucs while still adjusting to his new head coach and offense.
Tom Brady seemed to think that 4th down play was 3rd down. pic.twitter.com/SHVbMrG3Ma
He’s animated, he’s fired up, he’s shouting at teammates, and for all we saw from him in New England, that’s a positive sign as far as Tampa are concerned. The irony of course being that similar behaviour from Rodgers has seen him deemed as a bad teammate in the past. They’re winners, that’s the bottom line.
In terms of the stats, Brady is down on Rodgers with a 64.3 percent pass completion compared to 70.5, 275 yards per game compared to 303.5 and has 12 touchdowns to four interceptions with a 96.8 passer rating.
Moving the ball has been a struggle at times, but Brady still has the know-how and now the personnel to hurt teams. Gus Bradley’s Los Angeles Chargers defense, still way off where its talent dictates it should be, learned as much when Brady threw for 369 yards and five touchdowns, all to different receivers, to help the Bucs overturn a 17-point deficit in the 38-31 win in Week Four.
The Bucs still carry the look of a team gelling in key areas. For Brady, that will have been expected as well as encouragement as he banks on this Tampa outfit remaining some distance from its full potential.
Wide receiver Mike Evans leads the league with a joint-first six touchdown catches, but is averaging just over 50 yards per game. Fellow Pro Bowler Chris Godwin has been limited to just two games through injury, and tight end O.J. Howard was recently played on injured reserve after rupturing his Achilles tendon against the Chargers.
In Brady-like fashion, he has made a reliable commodity out of the less talked about Scotty Miller, while finding joy in utilising running back Ronald Jones as a multi-purpose weapon, as he did with the likes of James White in New England.
Arians’ limited use of his tight ends as targets in the open field has been a deviation to what helped Brady be so successful in the Patriots offense, although Rob Gronkowski has played 81.21 percent of offensive snaps as added protection amid a gradual recalibration to life in the NFL.
Brady’s rookie left tackle Tristan Wirfs is also still in the early stages of what is a notoriously tough transition, and the Bucs as a unit have hurt themselves with a league-most 42 penalties for 410 yards.
A sense of familiarity carried through from last season has meanwhile seen the Bucs defense, led by an outstanding front seven, rank first against the run so far this year, a reputation Aaron Jones will no doubt test on Sunday, while they are meanwhile eighth in scoring defense.
It’s a sense of familiarity that has aided the Packers in year two under LaFleur, and the kind Brady’s Bucs offense, which will undoubtedly get better, is striving to create.
Let’s enjoy this one. With Brady now 43 and Rodgers approaching 37, round three may well be the last.
Watch Rodgers’ Packers @ Brady’s Buccaneers, live on Sky Sports NFL from 9.25pm on Sunday.
Don’t sleep on the Pittsburgh Steelers
Beware the sleeping giant.
The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a down year last season, but they are unbeaten through four weeks of the 2020 season, back atop the AFC North and are a major Super Bowl contender, writes David Currie.
Click here to read the feature article.
Week Six NFL Predictions
Week Six, and a chance of redemption for Rob Ryan as he takes on West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell and Sky Sports Boxing‘s Johnny Nelson and Gary Logan in this week’s NFL Predictions.
Coach Ryan kick-started the season for Team NFL in Week One, losing out to Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher of all people, but Week Six offers him a chance to restore his good name.
Click here to see their Week Six NFL Predictions in full.
Sky Sports NFL will be your dedicated channel for NFL coverage through the season – featuring a host of NFL Network programming, a new weekly preview show as well as at least five games a week and NFL Redzone, you won’t miss a moment.
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