Ten months of drama, four months of litigation and countless columns: roughly 60 hours from the time this column is published, none of it will matter anymore.
The New England Patriots travel to take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday Night Football. When the clock strikes zero on the fourth quarter, win or lose, these two teams can finally put Deflategate behind them.
Sure, there's always the chance these two teams could meet again in the playoffs, but since the schedule was announced back in April, fans of both teams, national media, pundits and the entire NFL-loving country have had this date circled on their calendars.
Such a narrative surrounds this game that several prominent Boston-based reporters took an early trip to Indianapolis just to get a jump-start on all the possible storylines.
Of course, the Patriots aren't feeding the narrative.
"The past is the past," said cornerback Malcolm Butler. "That's how you've got to look at it. It's in the past. Everything is over with. We've got a game Sunday, so we're just going to go out there and play."
Just another week.
"I'm always pretty motivated regardless of the opponent, regardless of the team or the week, whether it's a preseason game [or] whether it's a regular-season game,” said quarterback Tom Brady. "They're all important because there are so few of those where you get an opportunity in your life, so I don't take it for granted."
But how can this be just another "opportunity" for Brady?
It would have been one thing if the Colts had simply alerted the NFL before the AFC Championship Game that "it is well known around the league" that the Patriots tamper with game balls after they are inspected by the officials. Those were the words used by Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
It went to an offseason sports media-engulfing level when a Colts equipment staff member used a pressure gauge to measure a Patriots football, launching an investigation into how the air escaped from the footballs—an investigation that was influenced from beginning to end by media leaks such as the one that occurred when someone leaked to Indianapolis media that night that the league was looking into the underinflation of the balls.
Obnoxious Boston Fan @realOBF
Patriots "caught speeding/Deflategate" analogy: ✔ Radar untested ✔ Cops out of jurisdiction ✔ Convicted without trial ✔ Sentenced to 5 years2015-10-15 19:27:54
And we're supposed to believe this is just another week? Of course we are. Why? Because it's the Patriots.
The always singularly focused, never media-feeding Patriots. The Patriots who literally made reporters question whether they are actually human. Surely a human being with emotions would have a hard time not being extra psyched for this game, right?
"I'm not human," said defensive end Rob Ninkovich. "I've done some superhuman things at times. I was a superhuman hero back in my old Purdue days."
There go the Patriots, up to their old tricks of putting Wolverine on the field at defensive end. Those wily Patriots are always ahead of the curve.
Maybe they're ahead of the curve in moving on from Deflategate too. Of course, there's no other way they can approach it if they really want to put it behind them. The best way to put it in the past is to make people put it in the past.
The Patriots and Colts are playing one game on Sunday, and by refusing to feed the hype machine and staying focused on that, the Patriots are giving themselves the best chance possible to win.
It's an approach that's worked well for them in the past in four non-Deflategate-fueled "revenge" games against these Colts, against whom they've piled up 772 rushing yards on 155 attempts (4.98 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns, whom they've outscored 189-73 in four games (an average score of 47-18).
The Patriots might be hoping to win 189-0 on Sunday.
Who could blame them? Unless they are duping the rest of the world by denying involvement in the deflation of footballs, using the Ideal Gas Law as a defense when they knowingly committed a "scheme" to create a competitive advantage, they believe they are innocent of wrongdoing.
Whether they are innocent or not, we might finally be able to stop talking about it.
Just another week. Just another 60 hours left until that week—and the past 10 months—is over.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.