All this talk about the Patriots’ perfect season can finally, mercifully, come to an end.
No, this isn’t a prediction that New England will lose its next game this Sunday (against the New York Jets? That’d be something). Nor is it an admission that they’ll win their next three to finish at 16-0, although that’d be the smart bet at this point.
It’s simply a recognition that with this past Sunday’s win over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, the biggest late hurdle—and last real regular-season challenge—is behind them.
The predictions and hoopla surrounding games against the likes of the Dallas Cowboys (12-1), Indianapolis Colts (11-2), and Steelers (9-4) are in the rear, too.
Now the only chances of the Patriots blowing a perfect regular season would come in a loss to the Jets (3-10 and recipients of a 38-14 drubbing against the Pats in their first game of the season), the Miami Dolphins (0-13! Yeah right, although Miami will come out as fierce as they can for that one), or the New York Giants (9-4, but that mark is pure flattery with 290 points for and 270 points against in that span).
Again, that’s not to say the Patriots are invincible. Two weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens—a lowly, ugly 4-9 team—fought New England to a 31-28 squeaker that ended with the Ravens in spitting distance of their end zone.
It’s just to say that no one will be wasting ink on the Patriots’ perfect season anymore. Beating the Jets or the Dolphins will earn little by way of headlines (losing, of course, is a different case altogether).
Win or lose to the Giants, the hype explosion will combust again, but not because the Patriots beat the Giants, but simply because the Giants are their last regular-season opponent—and a win clinches what only the 1972 Dolphins have so famously done.
The Patriots are beatable, and like any other team just a major injury away from futility. The Ravens made them look like any other team and the Steelers last Sunday outplayed them for the first half, only losing control of the game after halftime.
The only question is whether a very, very good team that, underneath it all is really just another beatable team, will be beaten.
There’s a reason the teams play the games, and the Jets and the Dolphins each have a literal chance to end the Patriots’ quest for perfection, as do the Giants.
The important thing, though, is at this point it finally seems like an inevitability—and it’s finally sunk into the heads of the Patriot-cheering media that the Pats either will have a perfect season, or they won’t, just as it’s been from the first day of the season.
And finally, mercifully, maybe we can all start talking about something else.
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