I had been following a certain order in doing these team-by-team road and home previews, but I had to scuttle that order in starting the home previews because I didn't want to preview the Patriots until we had a decision on the ridiculousness of the Tom Brady "Deflategate" situation. I truly hope to never type "Deflategate" again after today as recently the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected Brady's request for an en banc hearing to rehear the NFL's victory in appeals court in reinstating Brady's four-game suspension for his role in those deflated footballs in the AFC title game following the 2014 season against Indianapolis.
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This silliness is over now, as Brady has said he won't try to get the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case. That was never going to happen as the Court has bigger worries than dealing with whether Roger Goodell overextended the power given to him in the collective bargaining agreement. Nearly every expert I've read, other than those hired by the NFLPA and Brady's legal team, say that Goodell was well within his power with this suspension.
Did Brady like his footballs a certain way and was there a little funny business going on? I'm quite sure the answer is yes. Did it make any bit of difference from a competitive standpoint? No chance. This isn't like using a lubricant or sandpaper on a baseball.
So Brady will miss his first regular-season action since suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Unknown Matt Cassel replaced Brady that year and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record, but it wasn't good enough to win the AFC East or make the playoffs. That's the last time the Patriots failed to do either. Things are now turned over to backup Jimmy Garoppolo, the team's second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois in 2014. Don't just assume because he's from that small school that Garoppolo can't play. Tony Romo also played at EIU. So did Saints coach Sean Payton, for what that's worth. Garoppolo has attempted 31 regular-season passes in his career, obviously none when it mattered. He did look quite good last preseason; Brady can play in the preseason and practice until the regular season.
This could actually prove to be a good thing for the Pats, as if Garoppolo shines in those four regular-season games he would have major trade value if the Patriots think Brady can play another five years. Or he could be locked in as Brady's successor. I will be surprised if the Pats don't sign a veteran QB, however, as Garoppolo's backup is raw third-round rookie Jacoby Brissett. Mybookie.ag, incidentally, has some interesting Garoppolo props available.
New England was 7-1 at home last season, 4-2-2 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Patriots play three 2015 playoff clubs at home this season. I project a 6-2 record. The Patriots have a wins total of 10.5 this season (not changed even after last week's ruling), with the over a -135 favorite. That's tough to project with Brady out four games. I didn't make a road projection because back then as I didn't know what was going to happen with Brady's appeal. But I'd go over that total and think the Pats will go 11-5. They have an overall schedule rank of ninth-toughest with an opponents' 2015 combined winning percentage of .523. Odds listed below for the home team. I have indicated what the opening line was originally on the three home games Brady will now miss.
Sept. 18 vs. Dolphins (-5, was -9.5): New England comes of a trip to Arizona, and I'd guess a loss, the previous Sunday night. Miami, which hasn't won at the Patriots since 2008, is almost guaranteed to be 0-1 as it visits Seattle in Week 1. The Patriots beat the visiting Dolphins 36-7 on a Thursday in Week 8 last year. Brady threw for 356 yards and four scores, two to Julian Edelman. Rob Gronkowski had 113 yards receiving and a touchdown. Key trend: Pats have covered four straight at home in series as at least 5-point favorites.
Sept. 22 vs. Texans (-2.5, was -8): Thursday night game. Those quick turnarounds usually benefit the home team, so that's at least a positive for the Pats not having Brady. This is the first playoff team of the year to visit New England. Houston is off a Week 2 home game vs. Kansas City. The Patriots went to Houston in Week 14 last year and rolled 27-6. Brady threw for 226 and two scores. The New England defense played its game of the year, allowing seven first downs and 189 yards. Key trend: Pats 8-2 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC South teams.
Oct. 2 vs. Bills (-4.5, was -7): Buffalo, which has been absolutely dominated in this series since Brady arrived on the scene, is off a Week 3 game vs. Arizona. Brady is 25-3 against Buffalo in his career and needs one more victory to tie Brett Favre (26 vs. Detroit) for most wins by a starting quarterback against a single opponent. New England won 20-13 at home in Week 11 on a Monday last year. James White had a receiving and rushing score. Key trend: Pats 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 as at least a 4.5-point home favorite in series.
Oct. 16: vs. Bengals (-4): New England off a trip to Cleveland in Brady's season debut. His home debut will be a zoo -- how much you want to bet that Goodell isn't in attendance? -- and it's a pretty darn important game potentially Cincinnati is off a trip to Dallas in Week 5. Since 1986, the Patriots are 6-0 when hosting Cincinnati. Key trend: Pats 3-5-2 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC North teams.
Nov. 13 vs. Seahawks (-2): Sunday night game, as it should be. New England comes off its bye. Huge advantage considering the Seahawks are on a short week, hosting Buffalo on Monday in Week 9. That's really a shame. Of course, this is a rematch of that terrific Super Bowl two seasons ago. I probably don't need to remind you what happened in the final seconds near the New England goal line. Key trend: Pats 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Dec. 4 vs. Rams (-9): Pats are off a Sunday night game at the Jets in Week 12. This is the only West Coast team playing a 10 a.m. Pacific time start on the New England home schedule. Los Angeles is off a trip to New Orleans the previous Sunday. Patriots have won four straight in series, last in 2012. Key trend: Pats 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC West teams.
Dec. 12 vs. Ravens (-9): Monday night game. Baltimore hosts Miami in Week 13. First meeting since that epic divisional playoff game in Foxborough following the 2014 season when the Patriots twice rallied from 14-point deficits to win 35-31. Key trend: Pats 4-4-2 ATS in past 10 meetings at home (including playoffs).
Dec. 24 vs. Jets (-6.5): New England off a trip to Denver the previous Sunday. New York actually will have an extra day to prepare as it is home to Miami on a Saturday in Week 15. The Patriots beat the visiting Jets 27-25 on a Thursday in Week 7 last year. Brady threw three TD passes and Chris Jones blocked a potential winning 58-yard field goal on the final play. Key trend: Pats 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 home meetings as at least 6.5-point favorites.
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