The New England Patriots learned Monday they’ll miss quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the upcoming season due to his alleged role in the “Deflategate” scandal.
However, the defending Super Bowl champions are still among a handful of favorites to win it all next season. According to the latest odds from top bookmaker Bovada.lv, New England's chances of repeating barely slipped, even with Brady, a 10-time Pro Bowler, suspended for the first quarter of the season.
Once Brady comes back, the Patriots have one of the easier schedules in the NFL.
Immediately after New England edged the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the two were projected to meet again in next year’s championship game. The Seahawks were just ahead at 5/1 odds compared to 7/1 for the Patriots.
New England’s odds have fallen back to 11/1 in a tie with the AFC rival Denver Broncos.
Thanks to their impenetrable defense and the work of their front office to keep that talented group together, the Seahawks are still the favorites at 11/2, followed by the Green Bay Packers at 7/1, and the Indianapolis Colts at 15/2.
The Patriots face a rather tough schedule without their top quarterback. Entering the second season of his career, back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to fill in for Brady as the Patriots kickoff the 2015 NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10.
In Week 2, the Patriots hit the road against a Buffalo Bills defense that’s considered one of the best in the league and recently hired former New York Jets coach and Patriots heel Rex Ryan.
Week 3 should get a little easier as the Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that went 3-13 last season and just lost its No. 3 overall draft pick Dante Fowler to a season-ending torn ACL last week.
The Patriots then have an early bye in Week 4, which will allow them to rest up for a trip to Dallas to face a Cowboys squad that went 12-4 last season.
Garoppolo was a standout at Eastern Illinois and was a second round draft pick of the Patriots in 2014, and while he’s likely more attuned with New England’s offensive schemes better than anyone besides Brady, he’s completed 19 of only 27 pass attempts for 182 yards and one touchdown in his brief NFL career.
However, Garoppolo will have running back LeGarrett Blount to rely on, as well as All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and top receiver Julian Edelman to make plays down field.
Furthermore, the Patriots have the No. 22 hardest schedule in the league next year, with opponents owning a .477 winning percentage last year.
After Brady makes his return in Week 6 at the Colts, the team New England beat in the AFC Championship last season when “Deflategate” began, the Patriots will play only one team that made the postseason last season. In Week 12, they’ll travel to Denver, a team that made several offseason moves.
With Brady back, the Patriots will also have a three-game home stand against the Jets, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins, none of whom made the playoffs and have significant issues at quarterback. That’s just enough time for the Patriots and Brady to erase any issues they may have in Weeks 1 to 4 and still gun for the top record in the AFC.