The New England Patriots will start their Super Bowl defence without one of their leading protagonists, as quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for the opening four games of the coming season.
In banning Brady, the NFL determined that the 37-year-old was “at least generally aware” of the Deflategate saga that emerged following the Pats’ AFC Championship Game victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
With the Patriots intending to appeal the sanction, it remains unclear whether the star will actually sit out the opening quartet of matches. Should the punishment stick, though, a couple of NFL teams stand to benefit.
On opening night, for example, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a considerable advantage in the passing position, with Ben Roethlisberger a hefty step up in quality when compared to the Patriots first-time starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
The hard start doesn’t end there either for the Patriots, who tackle the recently re-stocked Buffalo Bills on the road next.
An outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars perhaps provides a little leeway after that, but Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys will ensure there isn’t an easy end to Brady’s enforced exile.
The Patriots are currently 10/1 third-favourites to retain their Super Bowl crown with Ladbrokes, but could drift out to something far bigger than that should they stutter out of the gate without their leading man.
Consider also that the Patriots tend to start poorly even with Brady under the snap, as he and coach Bill Belichick tinker with playing schemes and lineups and it could be that the Patriots move well into the second month of the season before they finally find a winning groove.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £25 in free bets.