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First Four Games Will Set the Tone for Patriots’ Season

One of the most polarizing teams in the history of sports will once again be under the microscope in 2016 as the ridiculous Deflategate saga will officially come to an end with Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of this season. Oddsmakers don’t seem fazed by the fact that the Patriots’ most important player will miss a quarter of the season, though, as they have the second-best odds to win the Super Bowl.

Thankfully for New England, the suspension is taking place during one of the leanest parts of their schedule with a significant challenge in Week 1 on the road in Arizona being followed by three home games vs Miami, Houston and Buffalo, who combined to go 10-14 on the road last season.

Once he returns, Brady will have the opportunity to fill the stat sheet as the addition of TE Martellus Bennett gives the team another big-time red zone threat — a perfect complement to Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots are expected to use two-tight end sets as their base offense.

Here’s a look at their odds for this season:

Super Bowl +675

After finishing 12-4 last season, New England is second on the oddsboard to win their second Super Bowl in three years. A recent trend in the NFL has seen three of the last four Super Bowl winners finish 12-4 the year before winning the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl win would be the fifth for Brady and Belichick, which would give the duo the most rings for a head coach and quarterback.

AFC Champion +350

Making it out of the AFC and into the Super Bowl is all about a first-round bye for New England. Of the Patriots’ six Super Bowl appearances during the Brady/Belichick era, each one came with a first-round bye, with four of the six being as the No. 1 seed.

This puts extra importance on those games in which the Pats will be Brady-less as it’s often one game that separates teams from a first-round bye or playing on Wild Card weekend. So, if you think having Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm for four games will cost the team a first-round bye, you should write them off as a conference champ this season.

Of note, though, based on their loss in the AFC title game last season, it’s happened six times in NFL history that a team lost in the AFC championship, then won it the next year, so it’s definitely not a rarity to see a team bounce back.

AFC East -240

There’s no debating it — the Patriots own the AFC East. They’ve won it seven straight years and in 12 of the last 13 years. One area they might be able to improve upon within the division is their 4-2 record vs AFC East opponents in three straight seasons. During that time, the Jets, Bills and Dolphins have only combined to have one double-digit win season, so they don’t exactly qualify as stiff competition.

Win Total 10.5

The Patriots have finished above the 10.5 mark in six straight seasons and since 2003 they've only finished with fewer than 10.5 wins twice. Based on that alone, the OVER looks like the way to go despite the Brady suspension, but they face some stiff competition with games vs the Cardinals, Bengals, Steelers and Seahawks this season. Even if they go 2-2 under Garoppolo, though, Tom Brady can still lose three games and they’ll top the total.

Brady (+1000) or Gronk (+6600) for MVP

Considering he’ll be missing a quarter of the season, +1000 — the fifth-best odds to win MVP — isn’t exactly great value, but Brady will certainly deserve consideration for the award if he leads the Patriots to a 10-2 record or better when he returns in Week 5. Next to winning the Super Bowl, a season MVP would be the ultimate ‘in your face’ result for Brady after he came out on the losing end of the Deflategate battle with Roger Goodell.

One dark horse on the MVP board is Rob Gronkowski, who comes in at +6600. A tight end has never won the MVP, but he might be poised to put up some career-best numbers with Martellus Bennett likely to steal the attention of some defenses. Gronk had seasons of 17 and 11 touchdowns when he was last paired with another talented tight end — Aaron Hernandez. Whatever happened to that guy?

2016 New England Patriots Futures Odds
Super Bowl+675
AFC Championship+350
AFC East-240
Win Totals 10.5

Odds as of August 18 at Bovada