New England Patriots vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Game Five Preview and Prediction

Tom Brady (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Tom Brady (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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  1. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia
  2. Brandin Cooks

Patricia has not been earning his paycheck with the abysmal defense played by New England. They have allowed the second-most points, the most yards, the second-most first downs, the most passing yards, the most yards per passing attempt, and are sixth-worst in rushing yards allowed and second-worst in rushing yards per attempt.

Patricia needs to get his players–particularly in the secondary–on the same page. Whether he simplifies the defense or puts them in a better position to succeed, the defense needs to find a way to get everyone on the same page as soon as possible.

On offense, wide receiver Brandin Cooks has not made the impact expected of him as a player who cost the Patriots their first-round draft pick. Through four games he has just 13 receptions for 294 yards and two touchdowns.

Cooks seemed ready to breakout in week three against Houston with five receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which won the game for the Patriots. However, last week he had just three receptions for 38 yards.

Cooks has been used almost completely as a vertical rather than horizontal threat in the passing game. He needs to be used more creatively to get the ball in his hands in space. That is especially vital for Thursday night as his big-play ability gives New England a chance to outscore Tampa Bay.