For over a year now we have wondered if, or when, Tom Brady would be suspended. On April 27th, 2016 it happened, Brady would be suspended, and the speculation would begin. How would the New England Patriots fair in 4 games without Tom Brady? They had been successful in a previous year without Tom Terrific so what could be different? Let us look at the first four games of the New England Patriots season and try to predict their win/loss record.
Week 1 at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals come into the season as one of the teams to bet in the NFC. Last season they had a terrific defense. They only added to the defense with the drafting of Robert Nkemdiche. He adds to an already potent pass rush. Their front seven is very stout against the run, and there may not be a better cover corner in the league than Patrick Peterson. The return of Tyrann Mathieu will be nothing short of a stacked deck against the inexperience of QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Even with Brady, this game was going to be tough. Prediction – Cardinals win. Patriots 0-1
Week 2 vs. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are a team on the rise. If there is a time to play well and get the Patriots, it would be in the first four weeks. The Dolphins defense needs to come up big in this game. This is the home opener for the Patriots and Garoppolo. They are going to do everything they can to play well. If Garoppolo is the future, they want to show that. This rivalry is always tough and usually split every year. The home team usually wins. I think the Patriots end up winning this game. Prediction – Patriots win. Patriots 1-1.
Week 3 vs. Houston Texans
If the Texans want to prove they are a contender, this will be a game they need to win. The Houston defense is very good. This could be the return of JJ Watt. If the o-line issues that hampered the Patriots at the end of last season are still there, this game could be a problem. A Thursday night game usually spells doom for the road team. Not so fast. Brock Osweiler and Bill O’Brien both have knowledge of the Patriots. Look for that to take the stage. Prediction – Texans win. Patriots 1-2.
Week 4 vs. Buffalo Bills
2 of the first four games are against division opponents. The only positive of that is neither game is against the New York Jets. The Jets are viewed as the team that could overtake the Patriots in 2016. The Bills are a young, up and coming team. Rex Ryan made some serious improvement to a defense that was very average last season. They should be less than average. The key will be the Bills offense. Will they be able to move the ball on the Patriots? Can Tyrod Taylor avoid the key turnover? If so, the Bills should stay in this game. Prediction – Bills win. Patriots 1-3.
A 1-3 record with Brady out; does this eliminate the Patriots from the post season after four games? Can Brady lead the team on a long winning streak? The New England Patriots find themselves in a situation that only they can control. Will the return of Tom Brady be enough to get them back into the playoffs in 2016? The last 12 weeks will tell.