Tom Brady is always on the Patriots’ injury report with some minor injury making him “probable” for a Sunday appearance. Today, Tom Brady really did suffer an injury, and with it, the Patriots’ 2013 season is suddenly in question.
The last time the Patriots missed the playoffs came in 2008. After posting a solid 11-5 record with Matt Cassel leading the team, the Patriots just missed heading to the NFL’s tournament. In that season, Tom Brady had torn his ACL, sidelining him for the duration of the season. That left knee happens to be the same one that was apparently injured today.
With Brady’s knee in question, so too is the status of the entire AFC East. Many had predicted that the Dolphins could be legitimate contenders to challenge a weakened Patriots team, but with Tom Brady on the field, that seems like wishful thinking. If, however, Brady has a serious knee injury, the Dolphins, Bills and Jets all become contenders for a playoff berth.
The Bills are the wildcard team of the bunch. We don’t know what to expect from them just yet. Judging from their first preseason game, we know they’ll be featuring a very fast-paced offense that relies on a high completion percentage from their quarterback. Right now, E.J. Manuel will be the starter, but it seems unlikely that the Bills would challenge the Dolphins for the divisional title.
The Jets, with Brady’s knee injury, suddenly have a real chance at life. The Dolphins have serious problems on their offensive line, and that’s a point the Jets can attack in their yearly matchups. With the Patriots out of the way, the Jets could win the division with nine or ten wins, and as long as they cleaned up in divisional play, the Jets would have a real shot at reaching that magic ten-win mark.
Next comes the divisional favorites in a Brady-less season. The Dolphins suddenly have offensive weapons and a solid defense, making them the most complete team in the division. Still, without an offensive line capable of protecting their young passer, that offense could be severely limited in its productivity.
Then there’s the Patriots. Without Tom Brady, the Patriots are a poor football team. They’re working with an extremely inexperienced group of receivers, and they don’t have much of a rushing attack to speak of. On defense, the Patriots can probably hold their own, but with no offensive production to force the opposition into passing situations, it would only be a matter of time until they would be breaking down and giving up points.
Obviously, this is all very hypothetical at this point. For all we know, Brady just tweaked his knee, and he’ll just miss one or two preseason games. If, however, it’s a dreaded ACL or MCL tear, the AFC East becomes a very unpredictable, wide-open division where anything goes. Right now, we’re all waiting with bated breath to see exactly what the extent of Tom Brady’s injury is.