The New England Patriots organization is so robust — and the rest of the AFC East so lackluster — that not even a four-game suspension of their distinguished quarterback is expected to prevent them from capturing another division title.
But with Tom Brady finally surrendering the legal fight of his ban, a penalty related to his role in the Deflategate saga, New England, could encounter early season turbulence. A season-opening road date with the Arizona Cardinals, which would have been challenging even with Brady, is followed by home games against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills.
Some anxiety is justified given that third-year pro Jimmy Garoppolo, a 24-year-old from Eastern Illinois, will get his first meaningful regular-season snaps. But if the Patriots remain relatively healthy, something they failed to accomplish late last season, they are well-positioned to endure a few September stumbles.
Even with injury issues, an underwhelming offensive line and a virtually non-existent running game late in the season, New…