The New England Patriots entered the 2016 offseason as the odds-on favorites to win Super Bowl 51, but on Monday morning, their road to Super Bowl LI got a lot bumpier.
Just when it seemed like everything surrounding the Patriots’ Deflategate scandal that rocked the National Football League for most of the 2015 offseason had been put to rest, a Federal appeals court in New York swiftly brought it back to the forefront of the professional sports world with its decision (by a three-judge panel) to reinstate Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in the debacle. In their official ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, had this to say:
“We hold that the Commissioner (Roger Goodell) properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand with instructions to confirm the award.”
And as you can expect, the ruling has yet to be fully accepted by Brady and the NFL Player’s Association. Brady already has his attorneys working to explore all of his legal options, and the NFLPA, who made it clear that they were “disappointed” with the ruling, has publicly said that they are also reviewing all of their options as well.
So, long story short, Deflategate chatter will remain a nuisance to football fans for the remainder of the offseason, and possibly into next offseason if the Patriots’ season ends in disappointment as a direct result of Brady’s suspension – which is a definite possibility.
Speaking of the Patriots, the truth of the matter is that they don’t get much sympathy from anybody outside of their fanbase or their team facility in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Part of the reason that sports fans love to vilify New England is the fact that they have put together one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history.
The other, more glaring reason that outsiders tend to despise the Patriots is the way that they conduct their business. As a result, it’s safe to assume that there are several teams and fanbases around the country who are overjoyed by this news.
Should Brady ultimately miss the first four games of the season, the Patriots could find themselves playing catch-up in the AFC standings for the rest of the season. Prior to the ruling, the league had already handed the Pats one of the most difficult schedules in the league for 2016, which means that is should come as no surprise that the four games that Brady is slated to miss (on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, and at home against the Miami Dolphins, the Houston Texans, and the Buffalo Bills) will by no means be a walk in the park.
And we aren’t the only ones who feel this way, as a mere hours following the announcement of the ruling, the Patriots odds of winning Super Bowl LI dropped from 6-1 to 8-1, and they are now no longer the consensus Super Bowl favorites in the sportsbooks in Las Vegas, Nevada. Regardless, we still firmly believe that New England is still the team to beat in the AFC, Monday’s ruling without a doubt narrowed the gap between them and the other top teams in the conference.
At the end of the day, the Patriots will almost surely still be a playoff team in 2016. And at that point, Brady will have been back in their starting lineup for over three months. As we learn every season, it’s all about peaking at the right time, and the Patriots will have had plenty of time to gel with Brady when the postseason kicks off next January.
All said, this ruling may cost the Patriots home-field advantage in the AFC Playoffs, but in the end, it shouldn’t really have any effect on their chances at bringing home the fifth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history in 2016.
You can count us among those who desperately want the Deflategate saga to just go away so we can all move on. Did Brady allegedly knowingly bend rules? Yes. Did it have any major effect on the outcome of game in question – the 2014 AFC Championship Game? Not at all. The Patriots have already been severely punished, and now Brady will likely be facing a suspension as well. What’s done is done, and the season can’t get here soon enough.