Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots = Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick

Former Patriots QB makes first return to New England on 'Sunday Night Football'
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady looks back at head coach Bill Belichick during wild-card playoff game vs. Tennessee Titans, Jan. 4, 2020
Posted at 11:23 AM, Oct 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-03 11:25:33-04

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is set to make his first return to Foxborough since departing New England in free agency following the 2019 season.

No quarterback in NFL history has played more or produced more in a single venue than Brady has at Gillette Stadium.

Since first appearing there when it opened in 2002, Brady has made 157 starts in the regular season and playoffs there, winning 134 of them while throwing for 41,285 yards and 304 touchdowns.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 63-75 as an NFL head coach without Brady, including 8-11 since Brady left New England for Tampa.

Homecoming hampered

Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss his return trip to New England because of a rib injury.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski tries to make catch at Los Angeles Rams in 2021
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski reaches but cannot make a catch during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif.

The team downgraded Gronkowski to out Saturday and he did not travel with the Super Bowl champions for Sunday night's anticipated matchup with the Patriots.

Gronkowski was listed as doubtful Friday. It will mark the first game he has missed since he came out of retirement to play alongside Brady with the Buccaneers.

Friend and foe

Brady may be an opponent when the Buccaneers visit the Patriots, but he still has plenty of friends in the New England locker room who have never taken an NFL field and looked across at Brady wearing another team's jersey, let alone had the chance to tackle him.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady, Nov. 3, 2019
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on as quarterback Tom Brady heads to the bench after a series against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a game Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Baltimore.

While many Patriots have played against former teammates in the past, they acknowledge this time is different, especially playing opposite a player who knows them so well.

It makes the margin for error minute, though the Patriots said they don't expect to completely reinvent themselves this week.

<h1>Geographic preferences</h1>

The Buccaneers are the favorite to win, but they're also the popular choice of the people.

According to BetOnline, fans in 36 states, including Florida, are picking the Buccaneers, as opposed to just 14 states favoring the Patriots.

Brady vs. Belichick map

The data is comprised of geotagged Twitter data from last Sunday to Friday, tracking such hash tags as #GoBucs or #ForeverNE.

Other popular hash tags including #TeamBelichick and #BucsNation.

Remember, fans of both teams can watch the game at 8 p.m. on WPTV.