NFL: Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick leaves the field with quarterback Tom Brady after New England beat the Cleveland Browns 27-13 on Sunday in Foxborough.

WE HOP in our Union Leader time machine to take you back … to the many, many years of Super Bowl predictions — and how we spent the two weeks of hype trying to convince ourselves how great, how close, the game would be.

Then, in most cases, the game itself was a dud. A blowout that left the halftime show as the highlight.

Coming back to the present, are we doing the same thing with Sunday night’s game in Baltimore?

After finishing the junior varsity portion of their schedule, the Patriots are visiting the Ravens, an honest-to-goodness decent football team.

Is the undefeated run truly at risk? Are we overhyping this nationally televised game? Will people actually NOT be able to watch Madame Secretary?

Contributing the hype, quarterback Tom Brady, who ALWAYS says nice things about the upcoming opponent, said, “They’re a great team. Great team; very successful organization. I’ve had some really tough games against those guys. They’ve always presented a big challenge for us. So, it’s a unique environment — pretty tough, very loud. They’re very good this year; pretty much good every year. Good defense.”

Remember, Brady does this weekly, never giving the opposition something to put on the bulletin board. But, from all indications, these guys ARE pretty good and may well be a playoff opponent down the road.

The New England defense, which has allowed FOUR touchdowns in eight games, has to deal with the mobile Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.

This COULD be fun, folks.

Jimmy G rolls on

The 49ers stumbled a bit Thursday night, but Jimmy Garoppolo‘s first four-touchdown game got them to 8-0 — and kept column pal Gethin Coolbaugh‘s dream of an undefeated Super Bowl alive at the end of the first half of the season.

Garoppolo was great. But a major question emerged post-game:

Did Jimmy G. call Fox’s Erin Andrews “Baby?”

I don’t think so.

Asked by Andrews was it feels like to be 8-0, Garoppolo said, “Feels great, baby.”

We’re giving the young QB the benefit of the doubt — like when you’re happy about anything and yell, “Yeah, baby.”

Now back to the real world.

New truth

While the basketball world waits for Jayson Tatum to take the next step toward greatness he failed to take last season, we give you the kid’s first buzzer beater Friday night, when he disposed of the pesky Knicks.

“I hit one in college against Virginia,” Tatum said. “I don’t know necessarily if it was a game winner but it kind of put us over the edge we might have been up two, I hit a three. This was my first one in the NBA.”

There will be more.

I just might have to revisit earlier comments about Kemba Walker — he just might be as good as Kyrie Irving. Now, he’s free from the shackles of anonymity that go along with playing in Charlotte. The guy is pretty special.

Celtics stat maven Dick Lipe on the more-assertive Tatum: “Tatum is averaging 20 FGA per game so far, well above his 13.1 from last season.” And: Before hitting the game-winner Friday, Tatum had been only 2 of 16 on mid-range shots this year.”

Lipe also tells us the Celtics are off to a 4-1 start for the first time since 2010 — and they went 56-26 during the 2010-11 season.

Looking around

David Ortiz says he hopes the Red Sox can keep both Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. There doesn’t seem like much of a chance that can happen. Good luck with that, new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. …

College hoops are back — and a killer twinbill in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden Tuesday: No. 1 Michigan State against No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Kansas vs No. 4 Duke. …

Carlos Beltran became the latest unproven manager to get a job Friday when he was named manager of the Mets. Here’s a little quiz for ya: he is the eighth guy to play for and manage the Mets. Name the other seven? Answer later. …

If you didn’t see the Lakers-Mavs game late Friday night, you missed a show. Twenty-year-old Luca Doncic became the youngest player ever to notch a triple-double against both the Lakers and any LeBron James team. But he and the Mavs lost the game as LeBron fed Danny Green for a trey that forced OT and then took over the extra five minutes. LeBron finished with 39 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds, becoming the first Laker with 35/15/10 since Magic Johnson in 1990. Doncic, who finished the game with a cut on the top of his head courtesy of Dwight Howard‘s chin, finished with 31 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. LeBron was his idol growing up and the two men hugged after the battle — the back of Doncic’s head matted down with blood. …

Sean Doolittle isn’t going to the White House with the Nationals. Too many things said by the current President would make it hypocritical for him to attend. “There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country,” he said. “My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘(bleep) countries.’ ” …

Another big NBA name is gone — Steph Curry will be evaluated after three months after needing surgery to repair a broken left hand. “Prayers up for @StephenCurry. Game needs the mid major legend .. Get well soon,” tweeted Portland’s CJ McCollum. …

MLB.com has Martinez as the seventh-best free agent set to hit the market. Wrote Anthony Castrovince: “After the free-agent waiting game Martinez endured post-2017, opting out when two years older would be a risk. But Martinez has lived up to the terms of his deal with Boston, and it’s not crazy to envision him leaving three years and $62.5 million on the table to see if he can beat that. He might make sense as an offensive focal point for a burgeoning team like the White Sox that has money to spend and DH and outfield at-bats to offer. Even if he opts in, the Red Sox might try to trade him (though he has another opt-out after ‘20). …

Kyrie Irving is moody? Who knew? New teammate DeAndre Jordan laughed the whole thing off, saying, sarcastically, “Kyrie’s a bad guy. He’s terrible. He’s moody. I don’t like to be around him. He’s horrible in the locker room. He’s a selfish player. I don’t like his haircut. I wear his shoes only because they’re comfortable and because he makes me. Is that good?” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said the reports are “absolutely false.” …

Old pal Mike Napoli didn’t take kindly to Alex Bregman carrying his bat all the way to first base after his Game 6 homer (Bregman later apologized). Napoli tweeted, “Bregman is a (blank). Hint: it rhymes with Scaramouche.” …

Patriots DBs love what they saw from rookie N’Keal Harry in practice as the kid makes his way back. “I go against him a lot and he’s coming to work every day trying to get better,’’ says Stephon Gilmore. “He makes tough catches and he has great hands.’’ …

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg faced a Saturday deadline on opting out of the final four years ($100 million) of his Nationals contract — and Betonline.ag had the Red Sox third in line for his new contract. The Nats were 5/4, the Yankees 3/1 and the Sox 5/1. Sounds nuts to me. …

Regardless of what he says — and some of it is fine — nothing turns me off more than when an announcer, like Brian Scalabrine, uses the words “we” and “us.” …

Strange but true: the Astros were 65-22 (.747) at home before losing all four World Series home games. … Lamar Jackson to NBC on Tom Brady: “It’s just his poise in the pocket. He just looks like he’s so relaxed, like he’s on vacation. He just picks defenses apart, and I want to be on that level.” …

It’s early, sports fans, but the Bruins are for REAL. …

Speaking of the Astros, one report had the Mets seeking to “trade” for Houston skipper A.J. Hinch and getting nowhere.

Kyler Murray‘s 88-yard touchdown pass to UMass’ Andy Isabella was the longest rookie-to-rookie TD pass since the Patriots’ Jim Plunkett hit Randy Vataha with an 88-yarder at Baltimore on Dec. 12, 1971. …

Quiz answer: Gil Hodges, Yogi Berra (nine at-bats as a player/coach), Joe Torre, Bobby Valentine, Bud Harrelson, Willie Randolph and Dallas Green. …

From column pal Shawn Hutcheon: “(Brad) Marchand & (David) Pastrnak became first set of #NHLBruins teammates with simultaneous point streaks of at least 10 games since 3/11/1993 — 4/4/1993, when Adam Oates (9-30—39 in 21 GP) and Ray Bourque (5-15—20 in 13 GP) each had double-digit runs which overlapped for 13 contests.” …

NBC’s Cris Collinsworth on Jackson: “Lamar Jackson is truly one of the most exciting young players to come into the league in some time.”

Gerrit Cole shoots down word he wants to return home to California as a free agent. The lifelong Yankee fan was originally drafted by them. Minutes after Game 7, Cole met the media and said, “I’m not employed by the team … I guess as a representative of myself …” …

Shades of the great Bob Hayes? Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, says he’d play in the NFL “If Patriots or Aaron Rodgers Call Me.”

Pedro Martinez, the only Cy Young winner in the history of the Montreal Expos, on Washington winning it all: “When I see ‘Nationals,’ I can’t help but think, ‘Expos.’ And I know this is Washington and this will probably never go away, particularly with all the things they’re doing here, but at the same time, I think Montreal deserves another crack at seeing a World Series.” …

Garoppolo is the first Niner QB with four TD passes in a game since 2012 … since some guy named Kaepernick (yea, HE shouldn’t be in the league). …

Strasburg is the first No. 1 overall pick to win the World Series MVP award playing for the team that drafted him. He’s also the first pitcher ever to go 5-0 in a postseason. …

Brady (on WEEI) on waiting with his son outside the Browns locker room to meet with Odell Beckham Jr.: “My oldest son lives in New York and he’s a big fan of his and all the kids at school in New York after he made that catch was, ‘OBJ! OBJ! OBJ!’ So then my son Benny from his older brother got to know who he was. It was pretty nice. He’s a great player. I always wish him a lot of success. They are going to keep plugging along there and we’re going to keep plugging along here and see how it shakes out at the end of the year.” …

A thought: LeBron and AD look VERY good together. And Kyle Kuzma is just getting back into game shape. Gotta love the Lakers. …

More from Hutcheon the other night: “The last time three players age 40 or older (Zdeno Chara: age 42; Patrick Marleau: age 40; Joe Thornton: age 40) competed in the same regular-season NHL contest was a March 4, 2014 game between the Devils (Jaromir Jagr: age 42 and Martin Brodeur: age 41) and Red Wings (Daniel Alfredsson: age 41).” …

The Celtics escaped with a win Friday night, but they have ZERO inside presence and/or toughness. Losing Al Horford, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris took away too much lane bulk — and I look for them to make a deal for some size at some point. …

The Dolphins are known for making the wrong move at the wrong time — and watching Kenyan Drake run wild for Arizona Thursday night is the latest example. The guy is 25 and talented. …

Kudos to the Bruins for Sunday morning’s baby shower for soon-to-be military moms, complete with strollers and other gifts. …

Finally, is anyone surprised Bill Belichick is open to coaching beyond the age of 70?

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.