Tom Brady brings Buccaneers into NFL prime-time schedule spotlight

The Tom Brady effect is on in Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers are the only team with a losing record from last season that will have five prime time games, the most in franchise history, and all of that can pointed to the arrival of No. 12.

Yes, even more than the team the Bucs won the Super Bowl in 2003.

Tampa Bay’s prime-time opponents will be the Bears, Raiders, Giants, Saints and Rams. A bunch of intriguing games indeed, but with the Packers and Chiefs on the Bucs’ schedule, the NFL fumbled the opportunity of a Rodgers-Brady or Mahomes-Brady prime-time game.

Brady’s impact is already strong in Tampa, but the Bill Belichick effect remains in Foxborough. The Patriots also have five prime-time games (the most a team can have), which is tied with the Bucs, Rams, Packers, Cowboys, Ravens, 49ers and Chiefs.

One look at the eight teams (except one) with five prime-time games, and you’ll see the common denominator is a high-profiled quarterback. Six of the teams have a starting quarterback who has made the Pro Bowl. Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the two who hasn’t made a Pro Bowl, but he was a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl last season.

So that leaves none other than … the Patriots. While other teams will be throwing out proven commodities, the Patriots are still deciding who will be their signal-caller. They still have Belichick, whose Patriots teams have 19-straight winning season. But with QB options like Jarrett Stidham, who in garbage time against the Jets last season threw a pick-six that resulted in Belichick putting the starters back in the game, and Brian Hoyer, who is 1-11 as a starter since 2016, it makes you wonder if they’ll be worth watching.

UFC 249 scheduled to be the first live sporting event since the COVID-19 pandemic

In Dana White’s words, someone has to be first.

UFC 249 will be the first major sports event in America since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will take place Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., at VyStar Memorial Arena and White isn’t second-guessing the decision.

“Critics have never built anything,” White said in a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I really don’t care what the critics have to say. Somebody has to be first, and it will be cool to be first and share this with our fans and people who will be watching for the first time.”

Although the event is on its second date, third venue and is losing one of its main event fighters, the card is stacked.

Tony Ferguson (26-3) will fight Justin Gaethje (21-2) for the interim lightweight title. Ferguson was originally scheduled to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, but travel restrictions in Russia amid the pandemic prevented that showdown.

Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo (15-2) will fight Dominick Cruz (22-2), one of the best bantamweight fighters in UFC history, but it will be his first fight in more than three years. Other fighters on the 12-bout card include knockout artist Francis Nganniou (14-3), former NFL Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy (5-2), Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-14) and Anthony Pettis (22-10).

“The card’s just so deep,” former three-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen said. “For a new fan that doesn’t know the stories behind the fights, they’re just going to enjoy a good night of action. But for the hardcore fans, this is an absolute treat. I gotta say: Do we even deserve this? As fight fans, have we done anything good enough to deserve a card this loaded?”

The UFC has precautionary measures in place. There will be no fans in attendance, members of the broadcast team will be at different tables and no post-fight interviews will occur in the Octagon.

The fights will be held on ESPN Plus, with the main card beginning at 10 p.m.

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