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How will the suspension of Tom Brady affect the Patriots season?

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The suspension is going to have a big impact on the upcoming year.

As everyone comes to terms with the idea of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sitting out with a 4-game suspension, let’s turn our focus to what the penalty actually means for the Patriots and their prospects in 2016:

Week 1: at Cardinals - Sunday Night Football

This is the only game all season where the Patriots were set to be underdogs and it’s in prime time. The Cardinals are still favorites in the potential first start of Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots odds of victory have fallen, but they were likely less than 50% from the start. The Patriots will throw Garoppolo into the deep end, but this will be as bad as it gets.

Brady’s impact: 40% victory -> 15%

Week 2: vs Dolphins

Luckily this game isn’t in Florida; the Patriots never play well in the heat. The Patriots have a big home advantage over the Dolphins and Miami will still be breaking in a new head coach. The Dolphins defense isn’t great so Garoppolo will hopefully be able to generate some offense.

Brady’s impact: 90% -> 70%

Week 3: vs Texans - Thursday Night Football

The Texans feature a great defense and they’ve really focused on improving their offense. This will be a more difficult game than most expect. The Patriots typically shred the Texans defense when Brady makes adjustments to neutralize pass rusher J.J. Watt. Can Garoppolo show the same command?

Brady’s impact: 80% -> 60%

Week 4: vs Bills

The Patriots are fortunate to have three straight home games, but I have a gut feeling that Bills head coach Rex Ryan will make the day miserable for Garoppolo. Will his prior three games as a starter help Garoppolo in the face of one of the better defensive minds in football? Of course, but how much? It also helps that Rex’s offenses underachieve against Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Brady’s impact: 85% -> 60%

Total

The Patriots odds of victory are far greater because they’re at home, but this is a more difficult stretch than many would expect. The Cardinals are a likely loss, while the Texans and Bills could be more of a toss-up. I still think New England should and will be favored in three games under Garoppolo, but that doesn’t mean they’ll start 3-1.

I would have expected the Patriots to start 3-1 with Brady, but I think they can go 2-2 with Garoppolo. That’s not a bad way to kick off the season and would keep the Patriots on track to win another division title.

The three home games are very important for playoff seeding since there are two divisional games and one against a division winner from 2015, with all three in the conference. If Garoppolo wins three games, it would benefit the Patriots the most if they were the three home games.

The suspension of Brady will have other effects of note. Brady will avoid the wear-and-tear of the first month of the season and will be better rested down the stretch and in the postseason.

Brady returns with a warm-up game against the Browns before a difficult stretch against the Bengals, Steelers, Bills, and Seahawks. Hopefully he can shake off the rust because this stretch could determine the playoff seeding, with the Bengals and Steelers serving as the Patriots’ top competition in the AFC.

Garoppolo will also get a chance to prove that he deserves a starting role and could help increase his trade value for the offseason.