Here’s Why Tom Brady-Patriots Matchup Was Scheduled For Week 4

'It just felt like the right time'


May 13, 2021

Tom Brady’s impending return to Gillette Stadium is one of the most highly anticipated regular-season games in NFL history.

So it was mildly surprising when the NFL scheduled that marquee matchup for Week 4 rather than saving it for later in the year.

Why was New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers slotted into the Sunday night window on the first weekend in October? NFL vice president of broadcast planning Mike North explained Thursday during an appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”

“It just felt like the right time,” North said. “You’re not too far down the road where either of these teams’ season story is already told. You’ve probably got less of a risk of an injury for any of the big players, maybe less of a risk for weather. We don’t want the big Tom Brady return game to be a story about a nor’easter in Boston. So it kind of fell in the right spot.”

Sending Brady back to his old stomping grounds just a month into the season also ensures both the Patriots and Buccaneers will be relevant and in contention at the time of their matchup. There’s no guarantee that would have been the case in, say, mid-November, when these high-profile games often are staged, especially after New England finished a disappointing 7-9 without their legendary quarterback last season.

The NFL awarded broadcast rights for the game to NBC, which also will air the Bucs’ Thursday night season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

“It was definitely top of everybody’s list when we talked to our network partners,” North said.

The Patriots will open the season at home against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 12. Their full 2021 schedule was released Wednesday.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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