Tom Brady began the 2016 season in unfamiliar territory as his suspension for the deflategate scandal was reinstated by the second circuit of appeals, ruling him out of the first four matches.
The 39-year-old was forced to watch as Jimmy Garoppolo led the New England Patriots to victory on the opening day of the campaign over the Arizona Cardinals.
The backup put on a clinic in the next outing against the Miami Dolphins only to suffer a shoulder injury, leaving rookie Jacoby Brissett to see out the win.
Brissett was on form to guide his team to victory over the Houston Texans, but thumb injury allowed the Buffalo Bills to enter Foxborough and leave with a win before Brady’s return.
When the future Hall-of-Famer came back into the fold, he produced one of his finest seasons with near flawless displays in all 12 of the contests. Brady’s post-season form has led the Patriots back to the Super Bowl where he will compete for a historic fifth ring.
We’ll now break down where the quarterback has shined this season and what could potentially hold him back from winning the award.
After missing the opening four weeks of the season and having not being allowed to practice with his side in that time period, many experts expected there to be rust in Brady’s play. Fortunately for the 39-year-old he faced the Cleveland Browns’ defense, who had started in porous fashion.
He picked them apart with ease in a comfortable victory for Bill Belichick’s men, throwing three touchdown strikes to tight end Martellus Bennett.
On his first comeback game at Gillette Stadium, Brady completed a three-touchdown performance in another win over the Cincinnati Bengals, connecting with Rob Gronkowski for the first time in the campaign.
Brady’s impressive start was to continue on the road as he put in two outstanding performances to guide the Patriots past the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills, with his offense not missing a beat to head into the bye week with the club at 7-1.
New England came out sluggish after their bye week against a strong opponent in the form of the Seattle Seahawks. Brady was required to go score-for-score with Russell Wilson and thanks to his accurate passing and the rushing ability of LeGarrette Blount, they pulled with seven points.
The 39-year-old had thrown his first interception of the season in the first half of the clash, lobbing a lame duck that was caught by Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead. However, Brady atoned for his error and put his side on the goalline in the dying seconds.
Questionable play-calling and solid defense from Seattle held them out, inflicting what would be the only regular season defeat for Brady in the 2016 campaign, while Gronkowski suffered a serious injury in the process.
Once again fortune benefitted the Patriots as they played the San Francisco 49ers after losing one of their key offensive weapons. Brady was able to pick apart without the All-Pro as Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell came to the fore along with running back James White.
Gronkowski did return against the New York Jets, but lasted just a quarter – which would be his final action of the season due to a back injury. Mitchell picked up the strain to aid the 39-year-old catching two touchdown passes in one of Brady’s worst performances of the season.
Brady returned the style of offense that served him so well during his early years in the NFL, connecting with Chris Hogan, Edelman and Mitchell in wins over the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium.
The 39-year-old returned to his roots against the Denver Broncos as the Patriots defense strangled Trevor Siemian and company into submission on the site of their defeat in the AFC Championship game last season. Brady was reduced to a role as a game manager, doing just enough to guide his side to victory at Sports Authority Field.
However, he returned to his dominant best to ensure that Belichick’s men secured the number one seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Brady threw three touchdowns apiece against the Jets and Miami Dolphins to take his tally for the term to 28 strikes to just two interceptions, the best ratio of his career.
His passer rating of 112 was behind only the 117.1 mark made during his record-breaking 2007 campaign, making a strong case for the 39-year-old to win the MVP award for the third time being backed by TopBet sportsbook at +1000.
Fair or unfair the quarterback missed the first four matches of the season due to his suspension. Whether you believe the punishment was justified or not, Brady’s statistics are affected as a result of him missing time, putting him behind Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan in that aspect.
He was brilliant in his time on the field, recording one of the best seasons of his illustrious career even without the presence of his best offensive weapon Gronkowski. However, Brady was seldom tested by strong teams, with the Patriots facing the weakest strength of schedule over the course of the campaign, including the one-win Browns and the 2-14 49ers.
Unfortunately for the quarterback the club’s 3-1 record without him in the line-up also suggests that the Patriots may have at the least reached the playoffs had he missed the entire campaign. In the same way there was slight discredit of his achievements in the 2008 season when Matt Cassel went 11-5 when Brady tore his ACL.
Brady’s performances against common opponents with Ryan don’t quite match up to the Atlanta Falcons quarterback’s feats in those matches, especially their win over the Broncos. Therefore that might sway the minds of voters to give the edge to the 31-year-old, who has also never won the award before in his career. Brady may beat the Falcons quarterback in the Super Bowl, but in the battle for MVP Ryan just may beat him out.