On July 13, 2016, football fans found out that the Federal Appeals Court rejected Tom Brady’s latest attempt to appeal his suspension over “Deflategate.” So, the Buffalo Bills will be facing a Brady-less New England Patriots when the two teams meet in week four of the upcoming season. The question then remains:
Does it matter?
Is Jimmy Garoppolo going to be as good as Tom Brady when he takes over for the Patriots in their first four games? Of course not. Brady is a future first ballot Hall of Famer. However, can Garoppolo be serviceable enough to win at least two or maybe even all of those games? Most definitely. How can I be so sure, you ask? Two words:
In 2008, Brady suffered a major knee injury in week one that kept him out for the remainder of the season. Oh man, the rest of the season must have been a disaster, right? WRONG! Matt Cassel, who had not quarterbacked a football game since high school, led the Patriots to an eleven-win season that year. He threw for 3,393 yards and 21 touchdowns. How was this possible? The backup of Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC just won eleven games for the New England Patriots and looked pretty good doing it. He must have been a secret superstar, right? No, not exactly. After 2008, Cassel had stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys. With those teams, he proved he was nothing more than a mediocre/below average quarterback at his best, and downright terrible at his worst. The Patriots were able to win eleven games with Cassel because of Bill Belichick.
Belichick, chicanery and conspiracy theories aside, is the best coach in the NFL. He might even be the best coach in the history of the NFL. Just like he did with Matt Cassel, he will find a way to win with Jimmy Garoppolo in Brady’s absence. Yes, Cassel had the benefit of throwing the ball to Randy Moss and Wes Welker that year in New England, but Garoppolo will not exactly be throwing to scrubs. He will have Wes Welker 2.0 in Julian Edelman, and Frankenstein at tight end. A blind chimpanzee could complete a pass to Rob Gronkowski. Also, the Patriots offense is designed around short passes such as screens and crossing patterns. Brady is not exactly making Aaron Rodgers-esque throws on the field. Garoppolo will not be asked to make throws that he cannot make, because the offense normally does not call for it.
Because of Belichick, the Bills will have their hands full in week four when they face the Garoppolo-led Patriots. Can they win? Sure, and they should beat a Brady-less New England team. However, it will not be the cake walk many Bills fans are hoping it will be. Rex Ryan will have to dial up the blitzes and make the young quarterback uncomfortable if the Bills are going to win. One-on-one matchup aside, many Bills fans think Brady’s absence gives Buffalo a better shot at winning the AFC East. Well, do not get your hopes up. The Patriots play the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, and of course the Bills during Brady’s time off. Honestly answer these questions: Do you really think they will not win at least two of those games? Would it really SHOCK you if they won three of them, or maybe all four?
The Bills should beat the Patriots when they play in week four, but it will be a fight that Buffalo better take seriously. As for the division, the Patriots should still be considered a HEAVY favorite to win it. Why? Because it does not matter who plays quarterback for those four games. They will find a way. They always do.