The New England Patriots will begin the 2016 NFL season without the services of star quarterback Tom Brady.
Last week, the Federal Court denied Brady's appeal to lift the four-game suspension for his alleged involvement in the deflate-gate scandal during the 2014 AFC Championship match against the Indianapolis Colts.
Brady is a four-time Super Bowl Champion and the heart-and-soul of the Patriots franchise that now must rely on Jimmy Garoppolo for the the first quarter of the season. While Garoppolo isn't a horrible backup option, he's also not a player that can lead the Patriots to a plus .500 record during Brady's suspension.
Luckily for Garoppolo, he has one the greatest NFL coaches of all time to guide him through the most important four games of his career. You only have to go back to 2008 when Bill Belichick led a Patriots team to an 11-5 record with a young Matt Cassel at quarterback after Brady went down with an ACL injury.
While New England were historically unlucky to miss the playoffs that year, the Patriots will be confident Belichick can guide another inexperienced signal-caller to a successful campaign before his two-time MVP quarterback returns to the helm.
If Garoppolo can limit his turnovers and allow the elite playmaking of Gronkowski and Edelman to direct the offence, then it's not outlandish to think the Patriots can't win two of the first four games without the "Golden Boy".
The Patriots will play the Cardinals in Arizona before hosting the Dolphins, Texans and Jets at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The Cardinals are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, however, the Fins, Texans and Jets have their fair share of question marks heading into the season.
The AFC East still runs through New England despite some solid offseason moves by their division rivals. The Jets boast a suffocating defence that have always played the Patriots tough but still don't have a reliable quarterback. The Bills acquired a couple of defensive monsters in the draft and while Tyrod Taylor proved he can produce at a high level on occasions, Buffalo's fate will lie with the consistency of it's young quarterback. The Dolphins made a splash in free agency for the second consecutive season, signing the highly-respected Adam Gase as head coach as well as adding defensive-end Mario Williams to create a two-headed beast alongside Ndamukong Suh. These flashy acquisitions will mean very little though if Ryan Tannehill fails to take his game to a level worthy of competing with the league's elite quarterbacks.
New England didn't quite make the free agency splash the Dolphins did, although the acquisition of tight-end Martellus Bennett is a master-class move from Belichick and the Patriots front office. With the addition of Bennett alongside Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and LeGarrette Blount, Brady will return to arguably the most stacked offensive unit he's ever had at his disposal when New England face the Cleveland Browns in week five.
You don't have to go too far back to see how Brady reacts after his name has been dragged through the mud. The NFL originally sentenced Brady to serve the four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2015 season in which the future hall-of-fame quarterback appealed and won. Brady began the 2015 season like a man possessed, leading the Patriots to 11 straight wins and their fifth consecutive AFC Championship appearance.
Brady deserves to sit on the sidelines for his involvement in the deflate-gate scandal and his absence will make the first four games extremely difficult for the Patriots to own a winning record by the time he returns. With this said, you can bet the house that Brady returns with an almighty vengeance attempting to destroy anyone that comes between him and his quest for a fifth championship.