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The Tom Brady Ruling Means Nearly Half An Extra Win For The Patriots

Somebody ought to teach Roger Goodell how to suspend a guy properly. On Thursday, Judge Richard Berman overturned Teflon Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in connection with the Deflategate scandal. You can read all sorts of legal analysis elsewhere, but here’s the basic gist: Goodell, the NFL commissioner, didn’t justly suspend Brady, nor did he properly notify Brady during the process that a four-game suspension was a possible punishment. (Berman did not rule on whether Brady was involved in Deflategate in the first place.)

The Patriots rejoiced, which they’ve gotten good at in the past decade and a half. And they should: Now that Brady is eligible to play the first four games of the season, the Patriots are even more likely to make the playoffs than they already were. ESPN Stats and Info projected1 that without Brady for four games, the Patriots would make the playoffs 68 percent of the time. Now it’s 74 percent.


That’s a big spike, but the Patriots were already expected to be the best team in the AFC East before Brady’s return. The nullification of Brady’s suspension will really matter when the playoffs start — the Patriots are now expected to have the second-best record in the AFC (New England passed the Broncos, though they still rank behind the Colts). So Goodell’s inept handling of Brady’s suspension didn’t just gift the Patriots nearly half a win; it might also have gifted them a higher playoff seed.

UPDATE (Sept. 3, 3:42 p.m.): This post has been updated throughout with new data from an updated Football Power Index model.


  1. The projection is derived from Stats and Info’s Football Power Index, a nifty model that assigns every NFL team a strength rating for its offense, defense and special teams and then simulates the schedule 10,000 times, tracking how often each team wins its division, conference and even the Super Bowl.

Chadwick Matlin was a deputy managing editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.