After over a year of back and forth from the league and Tom Brady, as well as fights between the NFLPA and the commissioner, a circuit court finally ruled in the Brady vs. NFL case. Brady will indeed have to face the four-game suspension to begin next season, unless Brady opts to further the case to the Supreme Court.
Brady and the Patriots have already pushed this case to the limits, and forced all the limitations down of the ruling aside from the actual games. Brady and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft restructured Brady’s contract to give almost all of his 2016 salary in signing bonuses, limiting his loss of pay from $9 million down to $1 million. But even with all the efforts to limit the effects, barring another major appeal, the NFL seems to finally be getting what it wanted all along, and Brady will indeed sit out some games.
THIS JUST IN: Federal appeals court rejects Tom Brady’s latest attempt to overturn 4-game Deflategate suspension. pic.twitter.com/YDu2ei3uCc
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 13, 2016
So, assuming Brady indeed serves his suspension, what exactly will change for the 2016-2017 season?
Well, it depends on the talent of Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots sure are high on the young backup, and think he has the talent to eventually be Brady’s successor in New England, a la Aaron Rodgers to Brett Favre. But the jury is still out on what Garoppolo actually brings to the table. Most of his snaps have come in garbage time, and when you have a future Hall of Famer in front of you on the depth chart, meaningful playing time isn’t likely to come your way.
But Garoppolo will have plenty of weapons to work with. The offense should remain semi-consistent, and shouldn’t fall of a cliff by any means. The lack of a meaningful running game would be detrimental to this offense, however, and it becomes massively important if Garoppolo is truly the QB under center in week one.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) July 13, 2016
More importantly, the fate of the Patriots is going to depend on the rest of their division. In terms of scheduling, the Patriots couldn’t have gotten a better opening start for Brady to miss than the ones they were dealt. Things are pretty rough in week one, with a likely loss coming to the Cardinals in Arizona. But following that, the Patriots have three straight home games, against three teams that finished below .500 last season.
Of those three games, two are against divisional opponents hungry to unseat New England off the throne for the first time in quite a few years. Miami will get the first shot at the Pats, and are fresh off a free agency period that saw them add some quality pieces in free agency, but the Dolphins are still young and don’t look like they are quite ready to unseat New England.
The other hungry team looking up to the Patriots in the division is the Buffalo Bills. Fresh off a shakeup on the sidelines, the Bills are the one team aside from the Jets that feel they can take a shot at New England after living beneath them for too long. The Bills have the defense to rattle Garoppolo, and enough offensive firepower to put up some points on an average New England defense. The Bills will have to play like the game is a season definer, because if they can’t beat the Patriots with Brady sidelined, it may not be in the cards this year.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) July 13, 2016
The only other non-divisional opponent they’ll face is a home matchup against the Houston Texans. And if there’s a starting QB more unproven than Garoppolo other than the rookies, it’s the Texans’ new multi-million dollar QB Brock Osweiler. The Texans are good, but nowhere near the Cardinals in the vain of being a lock to knock off a Brady-less Pats team.
The Patriots couldn’t have asked for a better four-game stretch given the circumstances. The fate of New England will rest on whether the other teams in the division can take advantage of the Pats situation. But if history is any tell, the Patriots will come out of September 3-1, and if that happens, it will be another banner year in New England – despite the efforts of Roger Goodell.