An Unusual Start
Obviously the New England Patriots will be without future Hall of Fame Quarterback Tom Brady until week 5. The last time Brady was not set to start Week 1 was 2001, when Jimmy Garoppolo was just 10 years old, now, he will take the reigns for the first four games instead of Brady.
This situation is not ideal for the Patriots, but there are definitely positives that can be taken out of the suspension:
- This is a chance for Garoppolo to prove himself. He could potentially put himself in position to take over the starting job in a few years, once Brady hangs it up. This is undoubtedly a tough task. His first career start is a Sunday Night Primetime game against a Super Bowl contender with an elite defense in the Cardinals (ranked 5th last season). Also in the four game stretch, Garoppolo will take on the 3rd ranked defense in Texans.
- Brady is 39 years old, rest is never a bad thing for a player this age. Returning in Week 5, he will play four games before the team’s bye week. Rest early in the season will be beneficial for TB12 later in the season, and assuming the Patriots live up to expectations, the playoffs.
The Patriots should get through the first four with at least a 2-2 record. In the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots are 27-3 against the Dolphins and Bills at home. Both of these games are very winnable. The Texans have never won in New England, another winnable game. And their toughest opponent, the Cardinals are led by Carson Palmer, who has never beaten the Patriots. Even if Garoppolo underwhelms with his performance, the Patriots should be able to win two or three of these games.
Playmakers on both sides of the ball are going to need to step-up in their leader’s absence. Rob Gronkowski should have a few big games, but it’s unlikely that the offense will be able to move the ball and score like they do with Brady at the helm. The defense will need to keep games slow-paced and low-scoring. No one should expect Garappolo to make-up for every weakness with the loss of Brady, he is going to need help.
Benefit from Brady
Back on the field for Week 5, Tom Brady will have one week to shake off any rust against the Browns before going on the road to take on 2 playoff teams in the Bengals and Steelers. The schedule continues to get even tougher leading up until their Week 10 matchup, with the Seahawks in Foxboro.
Going into the tough part of the schedule, Brady should be fresh and well-rested, just another advantage for the Patriots. In fact, their path to the Super Bowl this year is easier than most years:
- The only team that stood in their way last year was the Broncos, who have gotten significantly worse, and may not even make the playoffs this year.
- The Steelers have an offense that can keep up with the Pats, but the two defenses are not close. New England has the advantage there.
- The Colts have a below average defense and an unreliable running game. Andrew Luck is coming off a year full of injuries, so it’s tough to know how much he will produce. The Patriots have had recent success against the Colts though, especially in the playoffs.
- There are other teams on the outside looking in as far as contenders in the AFC. The Bengals need consistent Quarterback play, especially in big games, if they want to knock off the Patriots. The Raiders are a young, intriguing team, but still need a year or two of growth before they can be talked about as competition for New England.
The Patriots seem to always hit their stride mid-way through the season. Once a running game is established early in the season, and their stars are playing well, adding one of the greatest Quarterbacks ever back to the team is going to give the whole team an additional boost.
In case Tom Brady’s stats weren’t already impressive enough, they are even better following bye weeks:
- Completed 294-460 passes (63.9%)
- 24 Touchdowns – 8 Interceptions
- Team Record: 12-3
- Team PPG: 28.5
- Opponent PPG: 16.2
Tom Brady will essentially have four bye weeks to start the season, then an additional bye week a few weeks after he returns, expect a few big stat lines in those games.
New England has had at least 10 wins every year since 2003; nothing should change this year. Health, per usual, will be the biggest concern for the team. Their talent and coaching are always amongst the league’s best, but with concerns about Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis’, and Rob Gronkowski’s health already this preseason, this could be the issue that plagues their season.
The Patriots are heavy favorites to win their division, even with Brady missing four games. There is no doubt that the suspension will hurt his legacy, but as far as this season, the effects are mostly positive. Experience for the young Quarterback and rest for the old Quarterback will help the team in the future, even if that is hard to see now. A well-rested and angry Tom Brady could be bad news for the rest of the NFL this year.