Here we are, just 10 days from the Super Bowl and all focus is on Deflategate or, my favorite, PSI New England.

We’re still not examining the matchup between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.

Instead, we are wondering if the Patriots were caught cheating – again. And if they were, what the punishment will be.

We have been told little by the NFL, only that its investigation is continuing into the possibility that the Patriots used deflated footballs Sunday in their 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game.

If you follow Twitter, you can find a variety of opinions. The harshest call for the NFL to pull the Patriots out of the Super Bowl (not going to happen) or for owner Bob Kraft to fire Bill Belichick (that won’t happen, either). Then there are the football coaches and players, mostly quarterbacks, who say this isn’t a big thing, that almost every team or quarterback alters the game balls somehow.

Until the NFL releases its findings, we won’t have the official word on what happened between the time officials approved the balls before the game and during halftime, when they reportedly discovered that 11 of the 12 balls used by the Patriots were under-inflated by 2 pounds per square inch, or 2 psi.

We won’t know who handled them, who had access to them or what effect the weather conditions had on them. We won’t know how the game officials who handled the balls on every play didn’t realize the footballs were under-inflated until the Colts brought it to their attention in the second quarter after D’Qwell Jackson’s interception of Tom Brady.

But this much is certain: If the Patriots are found culpable – and frankly, it doesn’t look good for them – then the punishment needs to be severe. And the guy at the top, Belichick, should take the brunt of it.

Talk to any Patriots player and he’ll tell you the success of the team runs through Belichick. If Belichick is responsible for that success, he has to suffer the burden of the criticism and punishment.

If the NFL determines the Patriots knowingly deflated the balls, Belichick should be suspended. Frankly, it should be for the Super Bowl – that would send a message through the league that even the smallest rules need to be followed – but any discipline probably wouldn’t happen until next season.

This already has been a difficult year for the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. The league mishandled the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson domestic violence cases early in the season and has been on its heels since.

This is another threat to the integrity of the league. And it cannot afford to get it wrong.

The NFL’s rules regarding preparation of game balls are very clear. This is from the NFL game operations manual: “If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.”

The Patriots’ punishment would likely be much higher for several reasons.

 One, we’re talking about 11 footballs here. If just a couple were deflated, then you can dismiss it. But 11? That makes it seem like a calculated act.

 Two, we’re talking about the perception that the Patriots continually push the limits of what is legal and what is not. Right or wrong – and I tend to believe that Belichick and his coaching staff are among the best innovators in the game – that is the perception.

This belief stems from Spygate in 2007, when New England was caught illegally videotaping the signals of New York Jets coaches on the sidelines. Belichick was fined a record $500,000, the team was fined $250,000, and its 2008 first-round draft pick was taken away.

 Three, we’re talking about the Patriots, who are considered perhaps the model franchise in the NFL, a success on the field (six Super Bowl appearances in Belichick’s 15 years at the helm) and off (Forbes magazine rated them the second-most valuable franchise in the NFL, at $2.6 billion, behind the Dallas Cowboys). They are supposed to represent everything that is good about the game.

Patriots fans will defend this team to the end – and have these last few days. Many have pointed out that the Patriots, especially Brady, played much better in the second half, after the deflated balls were removed. But I spoke to several fans Wednesday who are sickened by the thought that the Patriots may have gone too far this time.

Yes, a lot of this doesn’t make sense, which is why we wait for the NFL’s response.

Of course, the NFL may find that the game officials didn’t follow protocol. Or that the weather was a factor. Or that something else caused the deflation.

That would clear the Patriots, but it won’t remove the suspicion hanging over their success, and Belichick.