With New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady electing not to take the deflate gate saga to the U.S. Supreme Court, he will accept his four-game suspension by the NFL for allegedly using deflated footballs in 2014 AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts to gain an advantage. Brady will miss the first four games of the 2016 NFL regular season and as we all know the drop off in production between him and Jimmy Garoppolo at the quarterback position for the Patriots is huge.
The latest turn of events not only provides the Ravens with a better chance of making the playoffs in 2016 but if the team is able to play to its talent level, the Ravens could be sitting pretty for an opportunity for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
As good as the Patriots have been over the previous 16 seasons with four Super Bowl trophies to show for it, the organization has had the luxury of playing in the AFC East which has not been a very competitive division in the grand scheme of things. In the AFC East, you have four teams consisting of the Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets haven't made the playoffs since 2010, the Dolphins haven't made the playoffs since 2008 and the Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999. From 2011-2015, the AFC East is the only division in the NFL that hasn't had two teams make the playoffs during that time frame. It is safe to say that the Patriots have had an easy road to the postseason over the years.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have played in arguably the toughest division in the NFL over the last 16 seasons. Since 2000, the AFC North is the only division in the NFL that has three teams which have made the playoffs at least seven times. The Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers have made the playoffs 10 times each and the Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs seven times during that time frame.
The Ravens haven't had time to take a rest and coast through a division the way the Patriots have. But it didn't stop the Ravens from winning two Super Bowl trophies over the last 16 seasons and with the Patriots possibly facing a 0-4 record to start the season, the Ravens would need to take advantage of its opening schedule to help the Patriots sink even further.
For the first four games of the 2016 regular season, the Ravens face the following teams:
- Week 1 home vs. Bills
- Week 2 away vs. Cleveland Browns
- Week 3 away vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
- Week 4 home vs. Oakland Raiders