It looks like Tom Brady will be suspended again.  Or maybe not.  I’m sure there will be another appeal and it will go to the Appeals Second Circuit Appeals Court of American Appeals or something like that.  The actual story surrounding “Deflategate” is awful and tired and everyone has already chosen sides.  But what does interest me is how the Patriots would be affected on the field if the Golden Boy is kicked off the field for the first four games.

As I usually do, I made a program to simulate the NFL season.  Once with the Patriots at full strength and another with the 4-game Brady suspension.  First, here is the simulation results for the AFC East champion when Brady plays all sixteen games:

Patriots 69.9%

Bills 12.7%

Jets 11.8%

Dolphins 5.8%

The Patriots won the division in nearly 70% of simulations, with Rex Ryan’s Bills next at 12.7%  This should be no surprise, as the Patriots are favorites to win the Super Bowl, so you would expect them to be favorites to win their own division.  Now, let’s take a look at the results assuming Jimmy Garoppolo starts the first four games for the Patriots:

Patriots 59.0%

Bills 18.4%

Jets 14.3%

Dolphins 8.4%

There is a very noticeable drop for the Patriots but they are still the heavy favorites.  The schedule is actually pretty important for New England in the first quarter of the season.  Although having three of the first four at home should help a backup QB, having two divisional games early could hurt the Patriots later on if it comes down to a tiebreaker, especially with the Bills projected to be the 2nd best team in the division.  (Things can change!  Although most expect that the Jets will re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, if the season were to start right now, Geno Smith would be their starting quarterback.)

While somehow this story will saturate the media for weeks on end, the bottom line is that the Patriots will likely be the AFC East champion regardless of whether or not Brady plays the first four games, having him just makes it a bit more likely.