Bucs vs. Patriots Scheduled for Week 4 so 'Story Can Be About' Tom Brady's Return

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 17, 2021

FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 11: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, and quarterback Tom Brady converse on the practice field during New England Patriots practice at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Sep. 11, 2019. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Many factors went into determining which schedule worked the best for the 2021 NFL season, but one was ensuring marquee games came in the right place. Perhaps the biggest one on the schedule is Tom Brady returning to face the New England Patriots in Week 4.

VP of NFL broadcast planning Mike North told Peter King of NBC Sports the league specifically wanted an early-season game to make sure it "is less about whether these teams are fighting for division races, playoff implications, less likely to have an injury, less likely to have weather."

"The story can be about Brady’s return," North added. "It would be different if Tom’s standing on the 50-yard line watching a tribute video in November in six inches of snow. Or, the later in the season we go, the more likely somebody’s injured. Getting in early, having that story told, made some sense."

Brady spent 20 years with the Patriots, helping the team win six Super Bowl titles, before leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a championship in his first year with the team last season.

The Week 4 battle will see the star quarterback return to Foxboro Stadium in a Sunday night matchup on NBC.

Senior VP of broadcasting Howard Katz said each network "lobbied hard" to get that game, but it ended up in prime time on Sunday Night Football.