Patriots Even More Likely To Win Super Bowl Now
At first glance New England’s chances to repeat just got longer… about four games longer. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady has been suspended for the first quarter of the season. Not good news for a team that lost four cornerbacks (Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington), a stalwart on the defensive line (lineman Vince Wilfork), and their most versatile offensive player (running back Shane Vereen) since the end of the season.
However, it’s at least a little ironic that in meting out his own brand of “frontier justice,” Goodell significantly increased the chances of a Patriots championship this season. Not that the odds were stellar to start with -- not with all those free agent defections. But any team with New England’s pedigree would be given at least a puncher’s chance of winning it all. And the NFL just upgraded them to “true contender.
Here are three ways in which the Brady suspension will help the Patriots in 2015.
1. Quarterback Health
Quarterback is the most important position in American team sports (just behind ice hockey goalie), so consider that the suspension reduces the chances of Brady suffering an injury. And not just a catastrophic season-ending injury. Remember that Brady’s peer, quarterback Peyton Manning, saw a steep decline in his ability to throw the football as the 2014 season progressed.
Some have suggested that Manning skip the first four games of 2015 so he will be fresher for the playoffs. Well, the NFL office just instituted that plan in New England. And that just about guarantees Brady will be sharper and better-rested come next January.
2. Patriots Against the World
The suspension is ready-made for a team that perfected “no one respects us” and “us against the world.” The New England Patriots won’t need to invent slights or disrespect; not this season. The NFL Office just gave them all the ammo they need.
Want evidence the league is out to get you? Well, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted to doing just about the same thing as the Patriots (only he over-inflated the footballs) and he hasn’t been investigated or sanctioned. The Jaguars and Vikings doctored balls during a game last year; and the entire thing was broadcast for all to see. The NFL response: a warning letter. Not a suspension, no fine, and no lost draft picks.
And when the coaches need additional motivation, there’s more to be had. After all, Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick were exonerated in the Wells Report. Yet Kraft was fined $1,000,000, more than for Spygate. And general manager Belichick lost draft picks in 2016 and 2017 -- again, a harsher penalty than the 2007 first-rounder.
Every team plays the disrespect card, but no team uses it as effectively as the Patriots. And Goodell just lobbed up a nice easy softball for them to crush out of the park whenever they need a little extra motivation.
3. F.U. Season Redux
The 2007 post-Spygate season was dubbed the “F.U. Season” by fans across New England. The team seemed to make it its personal mission to destroy every opponent. The result was a 16-0 record, an average 37-17 game, and ten wins by 21-or-more points. There were also some calls for a “mercy rule” in the NFL, but of course, those did not come from inside the halls at 1 Patriot Place.
Cynics will point out that the 2007 Patriots added receivers Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donté Stallworth, along with top free agent linebacker Adalius Thomas. But before the season started, no one knew if any of those receivers would help at all -- the Patriots had whiffed on a number of receivers over the years. And while Thomas was decent that year, he was far from the impact force one would expect from such a high-profile signing.
16-0 wasn’t just about great players. It wouldn’t have happened without a driven coach who pushed his players, his coaches, and himself harder than ever before. And in 2015, not only has his own reputation been sullied, so has that of his quarterback. F.U. indeed -- from both Brady and Belichick this time around.
Of course it’s hyperbole to say Goodell handed the Pats the Super Bowl. There is a lot of ground to cover before then, including Brady’s appeal, OTAs and training camp, decisions at cornerback and tight end, and how well backup quarterback Jimmy Garappolo plays in Brady’s absence.
But if New England was a semi-contender to get back to the Super Bowl before the suspension, they are more likely now that they have a rallying cry. Goodell might get a temporary public relations bump. But he’ll have to swallow hard to choke down the crow if Brady, Belichick, and Kraft join him on stage February 7, 2016.