It was another frustrating day for Patriots fans Sunday, with New England failing to win at home again. This time the Carolina Panthers connected on a game-winning field goal to down the Super Bowl Champions, 33-30, dropping the Patriots to 2-2 on the year.
Now the team heads out on the road on a short week, facing off with Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Thursday night game to kick off week five.
Here’s what to expect this week.
Sixty total points
This game will most likely go to another shootout, so expect both teams to score in the 30s. The Patriots have the second-best offense in the NFL right now, averaging 32.3 points-per-game, just behind the surprise team out west, the Los Angeles Rams (who would’ve thought that would happen by the way?!). New England does lead the league in total yards-per-game and passing yards-per-game though, averaging 328.3 passing yards and 423.8 total yards.
The Tampa Bay offense may only average just under 24 points-per-game, but the big factor here is New England’s defense. The Patriots currently have the worst statistical defense in the league, surrendering 32 points-per-game. To put that into perspective, the best defense currently, the Denver Broncos’, gives up only 18.5 a game.
Patriots’ running game will struggle
This point stems from more than just the Patriots utilizing a high-powered passing attack. The Buccaneers have a legitimately good run defense, only surrendering 78 rushing yards-per-game. No running back has been able to pass the century mark against Tampa Bay, and the only one that has even gotten close is the now injured Minnesota Vikings rookie Dalvin Cook.
The Patriots do average 95.5 rushing yards a game as a team, so it’s not like they completely abandon the run, but that’s still in the bottom half of the league. 20th to be exact.
Brandin Cooks FINALLY scores against Tampa Bay
Believe it or not, Cooks has yet to score a touchdown against the Buccaneers in his entire NFL career. That’s incredibly surprising for such a big-play receiver. I think he finally reaches pay-dirt this time around. He’s scored twice for the Patriots this year, both coming in one game, so he’s due for a score on multiple fronts here.
Look for Tampa Bay to put as much coverage as possible toward Rob Gronkowski, which should free up some room for Cooks.