The #DeflateGate controversy leaves little room for middle ground on many issues. Either the Patriots tampered with the footballs or they didn’t, and pretty much everyone has an opinion on the issue — regardless of what the facts eventually may reveal.
One key fact that is unrelated to the issue of cheating but nevertheless critical to the broader context is whether the NFL entered the AFC title game intending to try to catch the Patriots in the act, or whether the issue came up during the game itself.
Bob Glauber of Newsday has reported (and reiterated) that the question first emerged during the game, after an interception by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson sparked a chain of events that culminated in the league office deciding to test the footballs at halftime. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports has reported that the NFL intended to test the footballs at halftime even before the game began.
The latter report speaks to the existence of a sting operation, with the NFL setting a trap for the Patriots and springing it unexpectedly at intermission of the AFC title game. It also means that the NFL would have allowed the Patriots to potentially undermine the integrity of the AFC title game, allowing them to use balls that may have been underinflated.
As mentioned within the last hour during the Super Bowl pregame show on NBC, the NFL privately insists that there was no sting operation, and that the incident first arose during the Colts-Patriots game. While some would call that a predictable denial, the failure of the officials to log the air pressure inside the footballs before the game began suggests that there was no plan — or if there was a plan it was a bad one — to catch New England in the act.