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On Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, the New England Patriots will kick off a football season nine years removed from their last Super Bowl victory -- hardly a championship drought but the longest stretch without a title among Boston’s four major sports franchises.
They will take the field without tight end Aaron Hernandez, the former star who is linked to three murders, and may soon be missing cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who could spend part of the season in jail because of a July DUI arrest that followed a February conviction for assaulting a police officer.
Yet the team’s brand appears to be undented by shortfalls and transgressions that might doom another business. If anything, the Patriots might be more popular than ever.