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'Deflate-Gate' poll: How tough should NFL be on New England Patriots?

The NFL hasn't revealed the findings of its investigation into whether the New England Patriots used under-inflated balls during their win Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts, but initial reports indicate things aren't looking too good for the Super Bowl-bound team.

As The Times' Sam Farmer wrote Tuesday, reports on the NFL's initial investigation say the Patriots used multiple under-inflated balls during their AFC Championship victory. An ESPN report stated that 11 of the team's 12 balls were under-inflated by two pounds per square inch of air pressure.

An NFL spokesman declined comment on the reports. The league is expected to announce its findings this week.

Still, perhaps the Patriots and their fans should be prepared for the worst. If the NFL determines New England did break rules by using under-inflated footballs, it could prompt the league to make an example of the team.

With questions of the league's integrity under fire in past years due to its handling of domestic violence cases and head injuries, the NFL cannot afford to incubate the image of teams being able to skirt the rules.

So how harshly should the NFL punish the Patriots? It's a loaded question since the NFL hasn't announced the results of an investigation that includes many variables. But based on several reports stating the team used multiple under-inflated balls, what path should the league take if it were to penalize the Patriots?

Even if New England was using under-inflated balls Sunday, it's hard to imagine the Colts winning that game. But that may not deter the NFL from coming down hard on the team.

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