NFL schedule: Tom Brady's toughest tests in Tampa Bay
- After the 2020 NFL schedule was released, we look at Tom Brady's toughest games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Tom Brady discovered his latest path to the playoffs on Thursday.
Two games against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are a thing of the past for the former Patriots quarterback, who moved to the Bucs in free agency after two decades in New England.
Now, as he bids to take the Bucs to a home Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, it is the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers who are Brady's chief concerns.
Here, following the NFL's regular-season schedule release, we take a look at Brady's toughest tasks in 2020.
WEEK 1: at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
There was always likely to be a marquee match up first for Brady and Co, and so it has proven, with Bruce Arians' team travelling to Nola.
The Saints have won the NFC South in each of the past three seasons and their quarterback, Drew Brees, is the only man in NFL history to have thrown for more yards and touchdowns than Brady.
It is over a decade since Brees beat the Patriots and the Saints swept the Bucs in 2019, but Tampa Bay in 2020 – with Brady and Rob Gronkowski on board – are a different prospect entirely.
WEEK 6: v GREEN BAY PACKERS
Brady v Brees was a rarity when the former was in New England, and so was Brady v Aaron Rodgers.
The latter duo were pitted against each other in 2018, the Patriots beating the Packers 31-17 in a season that ended with Super Bowl ring number six for Brady.
Rodgers is still chasing his second, and the arrival of first-round draft pick Jordan Love suggests time is running out, in Green Bay at least, so this game is huge for the NFC playoff picture.
WEEK 12: v KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The baton in the AFC was already passed from Brady to Patrick Mahomes last year, with the Chiefs quarterback hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Miami three months ago.
Mahomes and the Chiefs will certainly be grateful that Brady is no longer an AFC threat, though they will still face him in Week 12, just before the Bucs go on a bye.
Tampa Bay will enter that game coming off a second Monday Night Football appearance in November, and would probably rather face the Chiefs after a bye.
Just a couple of MVPs pic.twitter.com/AiikIBCzyc— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) March 1, 2020
WEEK 14: v MINNESOTA
It doesn't get any easier after the break, though, as the Minnesota Vikings arrive at Raymond James Stadium.
Minnesota, a playoff team last season, have been .500 or above in each of the past five campaigns and should be a threat in the NFC once again.
This is the last of three home games in a row for the Bucs, either side of their Week 13 bye, so they really need to make the most of homefield advantage if they want to still be involved come January.
Week 17: v ATLANTA
Such has been the Patriots' dominance in recent years, Brady has had some Week 17s off, and the soon-to-be 43-year-old would probably like to be resting up for the playoffs this time around too.
Given the presence of the Saints in their division, that may not be possible, so a final week showdown with the Falcons may be pivotal.
And how Matt Ryan, Dan Quinn and Atlanta would love to avenge 28-3 and Super Bowl LI by putting a dent in Brady's bid to back a seventh ring.