After a week of rest, the New England Patriots continue their pursuit of perfection in Buffalo against the Bills today.
Well, sort of. From coach Bill Belichick to the Bradys (Tom and Kyle), the Patriots are in "one game at a time" mode, with a slight concession that "all that counts is January," when the NFL playoffs begin.
The latter line is quarterback Tom Brady's standard answer to all questions.
But the better line this week was from Kyle Brady, the 35-year-old tight end whose offseason signing has gone unnoticed among the team's high-profile acquisitions.
"It's kind of like the Iditarod, those sled dogs," he said. "Every single day you have to pull that sled and at night you eat your food and think about pulling that sled the next day."
If the Patriots win -- and they beat the Bills 38-7 at home on Sept. 23 -- they will become the 10th team since 1970 to start 10-0. Five of the previous nine teams won the Super Bowl and one that didn't, the 1990 San Francisco 49ers, lost in the NFC championship game to the New York Giants, who also started 10-0 that season and went on to win the title.
The Bills are not to be taken lightly. They've won four straight, including a 13-10 victory over the winless Miami Dolphins. They've used two quarterbacks to do it: Rookie Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman, who will start.
But they're also hurt and now have 12 players on injured reserve. Rookie running back Marshawn Lynch sprained his left ankle against the Dolphins and is unlikely to play. Fourth-round pick Dwayne Wright and veteran Anthony Thomas will share the load if he can't.
Despite Buffalo's winning streak and the site of the game, New England is favored by more than two touchdowns, which has become standard as the Patriots become more dominant and Belichick keeps his starters in well into the fourth quarter, even in one-sided games.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys' 31-20 road win last weekend over the Giants, perceived to be the NFC's third-best team, has given the Cowboys the same elite status in the NFC as the Patriots have in the AFC. New England, after all, was the only team to beat them and the Cowboys did lead in the third quarter of that game.
In fact, while Cowboys coach Wade Phillips is far more amiable and available than Belichick, he sounds like the New England coach when he says: "We haven't done anything yet."
The Cowboys host the Washington Redskins, heavy underdogs in a rivalry that often produces close contests. Last week, the Redskins lost a game to Philadelphia they should have won. They blew a 22-13 fourth-quarter lead and ran out of timeouts with 8 minutes to play.