Tom vs. Mahomes' Time
It's not a matter of whether it's still Tom Brady's time or not.
It's now a matter of how much time Brady has left – and Sunday might provide an answer.
Brady and his Buccaneers will face their stiffest test of the season when Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City visit Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Mahomes has thrice faced off with Brady – one of those matchups came in the playoffs – and twice 'Tom Terrific' has emerged victorious.
But today's NFL is all about 'Prodigious Pat,' and the Buccaneers are catching the Chiefs at just the wrong time.
KC has won five in a row, three of which have come on the road, and Mahomes is hitting his 2020 stride. He's throwing for 312.2 yards per game and nearly three touchdowns per game over the last five, while connecting on 72.4 percent of his passes and only turning the ball over once through the air in that time span.
His passer rating over the last five games is 120.9.
Conversely, Brady is striding – but not at the quickest pace.
The Buccaneers have lost two of their last three games, including a 38-3 demolition at the hands of the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium in Week 9.
Tampa Bay earned a 46-23 road win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, but on the most recent version of Monday Night Football, the Bucs suffered their second consecutive home defeat, falling 27-24 to the visiting Los Angeles Rams.
Brady has been shaky – at best – over those three games.
After posting 20 touchdowns to just four interceptions during his first eight games as a Buccaneer, as well as a passer rating of 102.0, Brady has struggled as of late, posting a passer rating of 75.6 in the last three.
In those games, he's thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions, and completed just 61.3 percent of his passes.
What's to be expected on Sunday? Can Brady shake off the cobwebs and avoid a third-straight home loss?
Or is his time defeating the game's greatest young superstars officially expired?
Skip Bayless admitted on Friday that he's torn regarding Brady's ability to still win games singlehandedly, and that he'll need monumental support from the Tampa Bay defense.
"Unless you tell me that Todd Bowles' defense has enough pride that it's one of those days, where they dredge up whatever is left of their pride and their passion and their guts, and they just say, 'That's enough of this.' ... If they rise up against Mahomes ... I think Tampa can win this game, 38-35.
"In the end, it's not going to be Brady's fault that they lose."
In Shannon Sharpe's estimation, while Brady is undoubtedly in the twilight of his career, he can still muster up some magic if he gets adequate protection in the pocket.
"If you can't generate pressure on Tom Brady, you can't beat him. If you look at the games that they lost, it's a recurring theme. They did one thing ... Pressure, pressure, pressure."
In Tampa Bay's seven wins, Brady has been sacked five times. In its four losses, Brady has been sacked 10 times.
Sharpe isn't convinced that Sunday will equal the walkover for Mahomes and KC that some think it will, but he is sure of one thing: Ma-homeboy will be magical.
"If we come in here on Monday and Tampa's won this game, I ain't gonna be shocked, because Kansas City has issues on the defensive side of the football. But Mahomes will be great. He will be extraordinary."
While Sharpe and Bayless have mixed emotions about Brady-Mahomes Part IV, ESPN's Max Kellerman does not, specifically when it comes to the quarterback matchup.
Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith went a little further into the future on Friday morning, discussing what a potential Super Bowl matchup between Brady and Mahomes would resemble, and Kellerman was hesitant to put the two in the same conversation in 2020.
"I get it's a changing of the guard. The most famous against the best. But no one considers Brady in Mahomes' category right now. He's not in his league right now."
Smith, however, looked past Brady's current form and imagined the buildup to a Super Bowl matchup between the GOAT and the aspiring GOAT.
"Could you imagine the storyline if [Brady] plays lights out for three weeks in the postseason, and then you gotta face Patrick Mahomes?! At 43?! No storyline would beat that."
While most expect Mahomes' Chiefs to make their second consecutive trip to the NFL's championship game, the climb will be a lot steeper for Brady and the Bucs, especially if they lose this weekend and fall to 7-5 on the season.
It'll be one step at a time for Tampa Bay.
And Sunday will represent the largest leap on their regular season journey so far.