BOSTON (CBS) — DeflateGate is all but over, and everyone is getting ready for some real football.

Boomer Esiason of WFAN and CBS Sports joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Tuesday for his first call into the show of the season, with plenty to tackle regarding the Patriots and the NFL.

After Boomer checked on the mental health of Scott Zolak following such a turbulent summer, attention turned to Tom Brady’s battle against the league. Brady’s four-game suspension was vacated in federal court last week, making the quarterback eligible to play in Thursday night’s season opener.

That’s great news for Brady, but another loss in federal court is another black eye for commissioner Roger Goodell.

“I learned that maybe Roger Goodell has too much power,” said Esiason. “It’s now 0-5 in appeals when you get the law and courts involved. I would think the NFLPA has a major bargaining chip and major leverage, especially when you hear guys like [Atlanta Falcons owner] Arthur Blank, Robert Kraft and other owners eluding that they have to redo the system.

“Really the bigger picture is from the NFLPA,” he said. “Brady has done a big service for the rest of the players in the league.”

For the first time since he became commissioner, Goodell will not be at the season opener Thursday night as the defending champions raise their Super Bowl banner. Boomer doesn’t blame Goodell for skipping this one.

“I get it; I wouldn’t attend if I were him either,” said Esiason. “It would be a three-ring circus and everything that is not about the game.

“This is about the Patriots celebrating their fourth Super Bowl, about Brady being back on the field, and for some fans who would have too much to drink Thursdays night, having the commissioner there would not be a good thing.”

Focus then shifted to actual football and the teams to beat in the AFC. Esiason said New England and Denver lead the bunch with Pittsburgh and Baltimore not far behind, but there is no defined “great” team in the conference. Boomer said Miami and Kansas City, teams with solid defenses and serviceable quarterbacks, could be the surprise teams in the conference.

What really intrigues Esiason is the rest of the AFC East.

“The Bills, Jets and Dolphins  are all vastly improved and the Patriots are knocked down a peg simply because no Revis, Browner, Wilfork, Ridley and Vereen – a lot of guys who were part of the substance of who the Patriots were. There will be growing pains,” he said.

Esiason said all three teams possess very talented defensive lines, which will put a lot of pressure on a New England offensive line that is already dealing with some depth issues before the season even begins.

“You talk about Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, they’re going against some of the best defensive ends in the league and they’ll see them six times. It’s going to be a very physical season in the AFC East,” said Esiason. “But what the other teams don’t have is a Hall of Fame quarterback. That will always be the difference, but the question is can he stay upright against those teams? It’s going to be a fascinating year [in the AFC East].”


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