With or without Brady, the Pats are the team to beat


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(Patriots photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)

Talk of Fame Network

Even without Tom Brady for the opening month of the 2016 season, the New England Patriots remain a force.

At least in the eyes of our listeners and readers in last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll. We asked which team was going to win the Super Bowl this season and there are two conclusions to be drawn from the voting.

  1. It’s anybody’s ballgame this season. The Patriots won the balloting with 20.3 percent support. But eight other teams received voting support: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Arizona, Carolina, Green Bay, Seattle, Houston, Washington and Kansas City.
  2. The next champion will come out of the AFC. After the Patriots, the Steelers received 16.3 percent of the vote and their AFC North rivals, the Bengals, 15.4 percent. The first NFC team to turn up in the voting was the Cardinals at 11.4 percent.

But let’s go back to the Patriots. Brady will sit the first four games of the season under NFL suspension for his role in Deflategate. That puts Jimmy Garoppolo under center. He’s thrown only 31 career passes. But the Patriots have been down this road before. In 2008, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener. Untested Matt Cassel stepped in and steered New England to an 11-5 record.

Three of the four games Brady will miss will be played at home — Miami, Houston and Buffalo. The one road game is the season opener at Arizona. Brady is scheduled to return Oct. 9 against Cleveland, driven to extend New England’s streak of AFC East titles to eight in a row.

The Patriots, Panthers and Broncos all appeared in conference title games last season. The one noticeable absentee from the poll was the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, who will start a quarterback (Trevor Siemian) who has never thrown an NFL pass.

The Talk of Fame Network hosts cast their ballots for Cincinnati (Ron Borges), Pittsburgh (Rick Gosselin) and Seattle (Clark Judge).

“How long can you have that much talent and never win anything?” Borges said of the Bengals, who haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. “They’re overdue. ”

 

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