The punishment has been handed down by the NFL, Tom Brady will be suspended for the first 4 games of the 2015 NFL season and the Patriots will be fined 1 million dollars and 2 draft pick in the next two years. While the punishment might not be a severe as some would have hoped for it does offer up something different for next season. We have always wondered what the playoffs would look like without a Patriots presence for some time now and it’s possible that we may get to see that. Each team in the AFC East has made great improvements, while it seems today the Pats just went backwards. Yes, the season is 16 games long but you are talking about a team not having their starting QB for a month and not just any team, these are the defending Super Bowl Champs and not just your run-of-the-mill QB either, this is Tom Brady, arguably the best in the business.
What does this mean for the Pats? It means they are in trouble as they will have to rely on the arm of 2nd year player Jimmy Garoppolo and his career 182 yards passing with one TD. The Pats will have to rely heavily on the defense but without good QB play their season might have just ended today.
Lets take a look at the ACF East and how each team could take their shot at the top of the division.
The Bills open their season at home against the Indianapolis Colts in what figures to be a good offense vs defense matchup. The Colts have retooled their offense with the signing of RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson while the Bills will look to run over the rest of the NFL with LeSean McCoy and Fred Jackson. Their next game is at home against the Patriots in what was going to be an early season showdown of divisional powerhouses but things have changed and the Bills will have a chance to go up possibly a game or two on the Pats with a victory. The Bills third game is against another division foe in the Miami Dolphins as they look to widen the gap in the division. The Dolphins have improved on the defensive side of the ball with the addition of All World player Suh in the offseason. The Bills will end the “Brady Month” with a game against their in-state rivals, New York Giants. The Giants are coming off another disappointing season and will look to rebound but the Bills have one goal in mind and that is to have control of the division before Brady gets back.
If the Bills can win three of these games they will be in good shape when Brady comes back. They could have a firm grip on the division, at least a 2 game lead on the Patriots by the end of the month.
The Dolphins open their season on the road with games against the Washington Redskins and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Dolphins were in the thick of the Wild Card race last season and have improved in some areas but it will still come down to the decision-making of QB Ryan Tannehill. The Redskins should not pose a threat as they have many issues they must deal with and the Jags are, well they are the Jags. Disaster has already struck them early in minicamp so morale might be a bit low heading into the season. The Dolphins next 2 games will be a little tougher as they play division rivals, Jets and Bills, good news is that both games will be at home where anything can happen.
If Tannehill can stay consistent and the Dolphins can find some sort of ground game they can easily end the month with a 2-2 or 3-1 record, putting some distance between them and the Brady-less Pats.
New York Jets:
The Jetsbig cook little cook recipes games their season at home against the Cleveland Browns where they will face a team that seems to have no direction at all. With so many weapons on the offense and now with the defense stacked the Browns should be an easy win. Next up will be the Colts in an away game that promises to be one of the best of the week. If the Jets can get consistent QB play they will have a shot at the upset win, yes, the Jets defense will be that good to give Andrew Luck problems. After the Colts the Jets will face the Eagles at home then travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Both games could go either way and I expect the Jets to win both their remaining two games to close out the month finishing with a 3-1 record to stake a tie with the Bills for first place in the division.
If the ground game can stay strong and the defense can gel the Jets have a real shot at something special. But the play of the QB is key, just like on any team but more emphasis with the Jets. They have been waiting for this moment for some time now and it is finally here. What will they do with the opportunity?
New England Patriots:
The Pats open their season at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which before today was looking like a great matchup of elite QB’s but the suspension has turned this into JV vs Varsity. Their next game will be a division one against the Bills as they will travel to Buffalo where the crowd will surely attack the Pats worse than the NFL league office did. Garoppolo will have his hands full going against a top ranked defense that will sure to throw everything at him including the stadium sink. Week 3 brings a sigh of relief as the Pats will go against the Jags in a game that could make Garoppolo look like the second coming of Brady. But then reality will set in again as the Pats will travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys and Romo.
By the time Brady does return the Pats could very well be 1-3 and in a world of trouble. Maybe Garoppolo can manage the Pats offense as efficient as Brady and lead them to a split of the first 4 and maybe this article will be seen on ESPN (not likely).