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Potential Tom Brady suspension could alter AFC playoff race

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs will not play the New England Patriots during the 2015 NFL regular season. Looking back at last year's results, that's a good thing for the Pats. That said, the breaking news about Deflate Gate and a potential suspension for quarterback Tom Brady -- all conjecture at this point -- could still make a difference in this season's playoff picture.

The Patriots kick off the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the potential of Brady not playing is already something to consider Vegas has officially pulled the game off the books, and MMQB's Andrew Brandt predicts a four-game suspension for Brady. While the Patriots have won with a back-up for Brady in the past (see: Matt Cassel... well, let's move on), it's impossible to tell how the team would perform with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. For a team like the Steelers who have waned a bit since their dominant days, a Brady-less Patriots team certainly makes the early schedule easier to stomach.

The same can be said for the Buffalo Bills, the Week 2 opponents for New England. If Brady were to miss more than one game, Rex Ryan's team wouldn't be at such a disadvantage trotting out Cassel or EJ Manuel (or J.P. Losman or Rob Collins). Given how the Bills have retooled and with Rex at the helm, they will also be an interesting and potentially dangerous team in the AFC, if they can solve their offensive front and Shady/Sammy are as potent as they sound. A divisional win here could turn out to be a major step toward the playoffs.

If Brady is forced to sit several games, then the road gets easier for several more teams. The Jacksonville Jaguars are up in Week 3, but no one is picking them to make a leap in the AFC South just yet. However the Indianapolis Colts would get a free pass in Week 6 and the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are up in the weeks after that. It might be a bit odd to think that Brady could sit for that long, but this entire affair is unprecedented (a la the Saints' bounty scandal), which means no one can say just how things will shake out.

Remember the Chiefs were only a game out of the playoffs last year and it made the Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans, who were so bad they had the No. 2 pick in the draft, even harder to stomach. A single game is often the difference between sitting and playing. It will be interesting to see not only what happens to Tom Brady but how the standings are affected if their star quarterback is forced to the sidelines.