Barring a court intervention, Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the regular season. This could be a golden opportunity to put the Patriots in your NFL picks.
Of all the punishments Roger Goodell has delivered the past couple of years, the one that seems to have ticked people off the most doesn't have to do with domestic violence, drugs or DUI – but deflated footballs. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady will sit out the first four games of the regular season, unless he can get his Deflategate suspension overturned in federal court. Meanwhile, Goodell has asked police in Maine to provide extra security for his summer home in Prouts Neck. Ah, the NFL.
Here at the ranch, we've been looking forward to these four games for quite some time. Since everyone from Bangor to Block Island Sound is going mental over Brady's absence, we think this is a fantastic time to give the Patriots a spin with our NFL picks. You don't need to be a genius to figure out why, either.
For those of you who are new to the football scene, let's once again travel back in time to 2008, when Tom Brady tore up his left knee in the season opener and was replaced with the man, the myth, the legend, Matt Cassel. How did the Patriots do that year? Try 11-5 SU and 9-7 ATS, although that still wasn't enough to make the playoffs. Ah, the NFL.
We're not saying Cassel was as good as Brady. He didn't have to be for our purposes – Cassel only needed to be less of a downgrade than the market expected. And that was the case: After starting a grand total of zero games in college at USC, Cassel played a little bit better than the typical NFL quarterback in 2008, according to the DVOA stats (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders.
Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang
Fast-forward seven years, and here with are with Jimmy Garoppolo about to step into Brady's cleats. As far as backup quarterbacks go, Garoppolo should inspire far more confidence than Cassel did; the Patriots grabbed him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, after Garoppolo broke all of Tony Romo's major career records in four years at Eastern Illinois.
We were even treated to a preview of what might happen this September when Garoppolo got in some garbage time in three games during the 2014 season. It's a small sample size against substandard competition, but Garoppolo still went a combined 19-for-27 with a TD pass to Rob Gronkowski, and no interceptions or fumbles.
There is some concern about New England's offensive line now that guard Dan Connolly has retired, but Connolly wasn't all that good last year, and the Patriots still finished fifth in the league in run blocking and second in pass protection – a huge plus for Garoppolo, after Cassel was sacked an NFL-high 47 times in 2008. We're not afraid to put New England in our football picks next month; after Brady comes back, we'll see.