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Tom Brady's suspension could affect NFC playoff race, too

With the four-game ban reinstated, Tom Brady's absence could give the Arizona Cardinals a meaningful advantage in the NFC playoff race.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the second circuit reinstated the Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his involvement in Deflategate. While the decision ostensibly affects the New England Patriots and the AFC East, the Green Bay Packers and NFC playoff field need to take notice as well.

Unless the NFLPA successfully appeals the suspension before the start of the season, Brady can plan to miss the first four games of the Patriots' schedule. Three of those contests come against AFC opponents. However, the season opener sees the team traveling to the desert for a showdown with the Arizona Cardinals, the No. 2 seed in last year's NFC playoff field and considered by some as the best team in the league for long stretches of 2015. With the additions of Chandler Jones and the expected influx of talent from this week's draft, Arizona should find itself again competing for one of the conference's top postseason berths.

And now, it appears the Cardinals have a significantly less challenging game to start the season. That puts extra pressure on clubs like the Packers, Seahawks and the NFC's other frontrunners to make up ground.

Seattle in particular could absorb the brunt of the suspension's impact among NFC squads. It faces off with New England in Week 10, well after Brady's suspension concludes. With a tight race expected for the NFC West this season, Brady's absence from the season opener could loom large.

For the Packers, that could mean the difference between battling the Cardinals for seeding or the Seahawks. While every team would prefer to host during the postseason, Green Bay could end up traveling for one or more playoff games.

A Brady-less season opener doesn't guarantee the Cardinals a win, much less the NFC West. However, it increases the likelihood of that scenario, and thus the possibility the Packers must play another game in Glendale, Ariz. this season.

Jason B. Hirschhorn is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and covers the NFL for Sports on Earth and SB Nation. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.