Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl? It's not that far-fetched. In fact, Buccaneers-Patriots is now the most likely Super Bowl LVI matchup, according to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI).
The ultimate legacy showdown has a 10% chance of occurring, per the model, narrowly edging out Patriots-Cardinals for the most likely Super Bowl. The betting market considers Buccaneers-Patriots slightly less likely: Caesars Sportsbook has that matchup priced at 16-1, the second-most likely matchup behind Chiefs-Bucs at 13-1.
New England's 14-10 victory in Buffalo on Monday night significantly bolstered the Patriots' chances of earning the No. 1 seed and, in turn, reaching the Super Bowl. The Patriots (9-4) had a 19% chance of earning the AFC's top seed entering Week 13 and left Buffalo with a 46% chance after winning as a narrow underdog. FPI ranks the Patriots as only the fourth-best team in the NFL but makes them the AFC favorites because they have the inside track on that No. 1 seed, which earns a bye.
So what would a Bucs-Patriots Super Bowl look like? Station Casino in Nevada already has a Buccaneers -3 vs. Patriots line on the board.
The Buccaneers were 6-point favorites at New England in Week 4. Chuck Esposito, sportsbook director for Station Casinos, said the Patriots are a different team now, though.
"They have the same ingredients as the successful Belichick teams in the past," Esposito told ESPN. "A QB that isn't making mistakes and manages the game, an extremely successful running game and a defense that has given up the second-fewest points in the league. And you can't forget the Hoodie [Belichick]. He's at the top of his game, and I think he has a little motivation to win without No. 12 [Brady].
"The Bucs are the better team on paper," Esposito added. "But if they meet in February, who knows?"
Brady led the Bucs to a 19-17 victory over his former team in Week 4, leading a drive that resulted in the game-winning field goal with just under two minutes remaining. Mac Jones put New England in range for a 56-yard field goal attempt to retake the lead with less than a minute left but Nick Folk's kick hit the left upright.
FPI, which considers the Buccaneers (9-3) the best team in football going forward, would give Tampa Bay a 58% chance to win the game should it occur.
As for the Brady vs. Belichick headlines? Those wouldn't be just for the drama: It would be the key matchup of the game. The Buccaneers have the best offense in football, per FPI, while the Patriots boast the best defense in the league.
The Buccaneers would clearly have the edge in the quarterback matchup. While Jones has impressed for a rookie (though he was needed for just three pass attempts against the Bills in the wind), he's not on Brady's level. At age 44 and in his second season away from New England, Brady is a serious MVP candidate. Brady ranks second in QBR behind only Justin Herbert, while Jones ranks 14th. Jones is by far the highest-ranked rookie in the metric.
Brady and Belichick spent two decades together in New England, winning six Super Bowls in that span before Brady signed with the Buccaneers prior to the 2020 season and won his seventh ring.
ESPN reporter David Purdum contributed to this story.