What, you thought we were done hearing the team "Deflategate"? Wrong. On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated Tom Brady's 4-game suspension for his role in that. How can you expect Pats' 2016 futures odds to change now?
Please, Let This Be It With 'Deflategate'!
I'm not a lawyer and didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I'm clearly not going to examine the legalese of this decision because I might not understand it. But basically what the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled on Monday was that Commissioner Roger Goodell "properly exercised his broad discretion" when he originally suspended Brady the first four games of last season. This has nothing to do on whether the judges thought the suspension was right or not, just whether Goodell should be allowed to do it. And given his powers in the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players' Association, clearly the answer is yes.
Brady’s suspension was overturned in federal court last September and he was allowed to play the entire regular season. Many legal experts thought that judge made a mistake. And after hearing the questions that the three appeals court judges asked Brady's lawyer a few months ago, those same experts forecasted this decision. Judges Barrington Parker and Denny Chin ruled in the NFL’s favor, while Robert Katzmann dissented to the decision. Last year, Brady didn’t learn until a week before the season that he would be allowed to start in the Patriots’ opener.
Does that mean this is over? Probably but not 100 percent sure. Brady and the NFLPA can seek a stay and either ask for a re-hearing before the 2nd Circuit or appeal to the Supreme Court. Neither of those results are expected to be successful. Brady hasn't missed a game since suffering a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 season opener. He led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes in 2015, throwing for 4,770 yards.
Jimmy's The Man Now
So presumably that means Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots' second-round pick in the 2014 draft, will start Week 1 at Arizona (the first Sunday night game of the year), Week 2 vs. Miami, Week 3 vs. Houston (Thursday night) and Week 4 vs. Buffalo. No easy games there but at least three of the four are at home and that should help the inexperienced Garoppolo. The Cardinals reached the NFC Championship Game last season. Miami was 6-10 but has been pretty active this offseason under new coach Adam Gase. The Fins were 1-1 vs. New England last year, beating the Patriots in Week 17 in south Florida, which cost the Pats the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs.
New England won in Houston, which was the AFC South champion, in Week 14 last year, 27-6. Brady threw for 226 yards and touchdowns to Keshawn Martin and Rob Gronkowski in the first half. The Patriots swept the Bills in 2015, 40-32 in Buffalo in Week 2 and 20-13 at home on a Monday night in Week 11.
Garoppolo has thrown a total of 31 regular-season passes with the Patriots, completing 20 for 188 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Obviously those were in low-pressure situations. I'd imagine New England will sign a free-agent veteran to back up him while Brady is out because as of now there are no other QBs on the roster.
New England had a wins total of 10.5 at Ladbrokes NFL odds. It was a +600 favorite to win Super Bowl LI, +300 for the AFC title and -225 to win the AFC East for a seventh straight season. The Patriots were 1-point underdogs at Arizona on NFL odds with a total of 51.5. There were also early odds vs. Miami (Patriots -9), vs. Houston (Pats -8) and vs. Buffalo (Pats -7). Obviously all those numbers are going to change now.
The day before Judge Richard Berman's ruling to originally overturn the suspension, the Patriots were favored by 2.5 points at home for the season opener vs. Pittsburgh. It was the smallest spread on faced by the Pats in a season opener since they closed at -1 vs. Buffalo in 2003. But that Steelers line closed as high as a touchdown at some books once Brady was ruled eligible. That Arizona line is now 5.5 points at BetOnline. The Pats' 2015 win total never changed from 10.5 on NFL picks. But the action very much did, with bettors hammering the 'under' when Brady was suspended and then the 'over' when not. To win Super Bowl 50, the Pats were +1000 before Berman's decision and +900 after. Brady went from +2000 to win NFL MVP to +1000 and from +2000 to lead the league in passing yards to +1200.
The win totals of the Cardinals (9.5), Dolphins (7), Texans (8.5) and Bills (8) haven't changed., nor would I expect them to. The Pats will likely still be favored in those three home games against quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler and Tyrod Taylor unless Garoppolo is terrible or hurt in the opener.
Brady will be back Week 5 against Cleveland -- those poor Browns just can't catch a break!
NFL Free Pick: I'd go 'under' the 10.5 wins if it stays there. I expect the Patriots to go 2-2 without Brady. Then 8-4 with him in the lineup -- 10 wins might still be enough to take the AFC East again. But the Patriots would have to win at least one road game to reach the Super Bowl.