When Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate was reinstated by a U.S. Appeals Court this offseason, it was met by celebration for most Colts fans - and I highly doubt anything is going to change that joy.
With that said, however, we never actually stopped and considered this question: will Brady's suspension help the Colts at all, or will it actually hurt them?
Yesterday, we wrote about Football Outsiders' initial projections for the 2016 season having the Colts finish second in the AFC South and pick 13th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Though the projected win-loss totals have not yet been made public, the average win total for a team picking 13th in recent years has been seven wins. Based on the Texans' draft slot (21st overall, the highest of the playoff teams), it would seem as if they are just slightly ahead of the Colts in projected wins - probably around eight. Furthermore, the Jaguars are projected to pick 12th, which would put them just below the Colts in the AFC South race (probably six or seven wins). In other words, it's clear that Football Outsiders expects the AFC South to not be very good again in 2016 and to be a close divisional race.
With that in mind, we come to this interesting question about Tom Brady, which Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz raised on Twitter: that there is a "reasonable possibility" that Brady's suspension could decide both the NFC West and AFC South.
In week three of the 2016 season, the Patriots will host the Texans on Thursday Night Football. If Brady's four game suspension stands (and at this point it is expected to), the future Hall of Famer would miss his team's game against Houston. While Bill Belichick and the Patriots aren't to be overlooked in that scenario, it's a much more winnable game to face Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback than Tom Brady.
In other words, Tom Brady's suspension creates a much more winnable game for the Texans in week three than it otherwise would have been, and in a close division race one game like that could wind up making the difference - as far as Football Outsiders is concerned, at least. Of course, if the Colts take care of business and play well against their division and against the other teams on their schedule, then Brady's suspension won't matter to them (outside of potential playoff seeding). But if the division race is as close as Football Outsiders seems to think it will be, Tom Brady's suspension could actually hurt the Colts - which is a very crazy twist of irony that Colts fans are surely hoping won't actually happen.