Tom Brady’s suspension will remain at four games, meaning the New England Patriots will be without their star quarterback for a quarter of the 2015 regular season. How will his absence affect the AFC as a whole? Did the reigning Super Bowl champions just lose favorite status in the conference race?

Even if Brady does miss time — which, at this point, is still no guarantee — the Pats will be fine
The suspension being upheld doesn’t change how I view the AFC for a few reasons. Tom Brady and his wildly paid team of lawyers are going to take this to court. The NFL hasn’t done too well in federal court when it comes to upholding these suspensions, and it’s quite possible that an injunction will allow Brady to stay on the field while the legal process plays out. That could take the whole season.Even if Brady does miss the first four games, it’s not a death knell. Three of the Patriots’ four Super Bowl titles came in seasons where they started 2-2 or worse. As long as Brady is ready to go for January, New England is one of the favorites in the conference. Bill Belichick can figure out how to survive September.

Why is everyone so dismissive of the potential impact here? This is a big deal, people
What surprises me most about the Brady saga is how many people believe the Patriots will keep chugging along without their most important player. Jimmy Garoppolo is a nice prospect and all, but this team will face an uphill climb to go .500 in a stretch that includes home matchups against the Steelers and Jaguars, and road games against the Bills and Cowboys.Too many people look at 2008 (when the Patriots went 11-5 without an injured Brady) and go, “See! No problem at all!” It’s reductive thinking. This is a lesser team and the competition around New England is better. I won’t scratch my head in disbelief if the Patriots roll to another 11 or 12 wins, but let’s not downplay how much Brady’s absence hurts the defending champs.

Lose favorite status? Suddenly, New England’s even scarier!
If possible, I think this makes the Patriots more dangerous than they were before. It’s safe to say Bill Belichick is a special kind of angry right now, even more so than when he had to take time out of his preparation for the Super …Read More