Label Patriots 'almost' perfect

January 23, 2008 4:36 AM
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Denny the Dog by Dennis Ball

   The Patriots may be strutting all the way to Phoenix with a swollen chest and a perfect record, but their supporters who have backed them with betting slips over the last five weeks won't be able to afford the air fare!
   New England is 18-0 and perfect in almost every way. The key word being "almost." Even when Mr. Perfect (Tom Brady) throws three interceptions, the Pats still find a way to win. Brady's bunch is pretty special. But they're not quite absolutely perfect.
   Almost.
   The Pats may be on the verge of an historic Super Bowl victory and a perfect 19-0 season, but they're not unblemished. Just ask the hard working men and women who have placed their money on the line with these chumps the last five weeks.
    Five straight losses against the spread! Ouch! If you backed the Patriots during that span, that hurts. And, my New England buddies tell me it doesn't soothe their pain at all to tell them the Pats have covered one game in their last eight attempts.
   Double Ouch! You don't need to be Bill Clinton in order to feel their pain.
   The Pats find ways to win games. Whatever it takes, they figure it out. Same thing when it comes to not covering the point spread. Whatever it takes to lose the money, the Pats make it happen. With New England, you can count on winning the game and losing the money.
   It's that simple.
   I'm not certain that trend will continue in the Super Bowl. But you certainly have to consider it when handicapping the grand finale. The Patriots weren't the only thing "almost" perfect. What a perfectly hyped Super Bowl it almost was before the Giants went ahead and ruined it by upsetting the Packers.
   I thought the media and majority of NFL fans were going to have their wish come true. The Pats held off a gutsy, banged-up bunch of San Diego underdogs. Brady was far from flawless, but the Pats defense got the job done in the red-zone where it counted most.
   The G-men marched out on the frozen tundra and brought a complete game with them. They blocked and tackled like the better team. They ran the ball more effectively. Eli Manning threw the ball better than the legendary Favre. And, Plaxico Burress ran routes and caught the ball better than anyone could have imagined in 24-below wind chill temperatures.
   And so you have it, we're going to get Mr. Perfect versus Mr. Imperfect. Or Mr. Goofy Smile. Or Mr. No Emotion. Whatever you want to call Eli. Just don't call him a quarterback that can't take his team to the Super Bowl like I did last week. Because Mr. Eli Manning is off to the Super Bowl.
   It's a very intriguing matchup since the teams met on the last game of the regular season. The Pats needed a win to run the regular season table of 16 wins and they did it in come-from-behind fashion at the Meadowlands, 38-35.
   Now we're treated to a rematch of Week 17. It was a game you could argue lifted the Giants' spirits and provided the confidence for their current playoff run. I don't think there's any question that's true.
   The G-men could have rested their starters and let the Patriots coast in for win 16. But Coach Tom Coughlin allowed NY to battle it out.
   Get ready for SB 42, one of the biggest do-overs in NFL history.