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From All on the Field sports blog: It's a simple hypothetical question, and we'll never know for sure.
Four and a half months ago, New England trounced the New York Jets in the season opener. But the bigger storyline was that the Patriots had cameras trained on the New York sidelines, and they got caught doing it. That storyline evolved into Spygate, and resulted in a $500,000 fine levied on Bill Belichick, a $250,000 fine on the New England franchise, and the loss of a 2008 draft pick.
But for everything the Patriots lost, they gained one thing: a major chip on their shoulders. There were no personnel changes, of course, but there was a shift in mentality. A good team was suddenly great. Each game suddenly became an opportunity to prove to the world that spy cameras or no, New England was the best team in the league.
The effect was utter humiliation for nearly every opponent on the Patriots' schedule. New England, as we all know, won the next 15 games of the regular season in record-setting fashion, setting single-season marks for points scored, touchdown throws, and touchdown receptions.
So here's the question of the day: if Spygate had never happened, would the Patriots be in the Super Bowl? And your bonus question: if it wasn't for Spygate, would New England have gone undefeated?