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Archive for Friday, October 12, 2007

Pats-Cowboys should live up to its billing

Give slight edge to New England

October 12, 2007

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There are three unbeaten teams left in the NFL after five weeks. Barring an unlikely tie, only two will be left after Sunday when New England visits Dallas while Indianapolis takes the week off.

The folks in Vegas obviously think the Patriots are on a higher tier than the Cowboys - they are 41â2-point favorites on the road in this week's "Game of the Century"; the next will be in four weeks, when New England goes to Indianapolis.

This is just the fifth time in NFL history that two 5-0 teams have met. The first was on Nov. 13, 1921, when the Akron Pros and Buffalo All-Americans played a 0-0 tie. One guarantee: This game will not be 0-0.

This game almost wasn't a battle of unbeatens.

Dallas barely survived Monday night in Buffalo with a 25-24 victory achieved despite six turnovers by Tony Romo, five of them interceptions. Yet Romo also showed his mettle by driving the Cowboys 80 yards for a touchdown and then getting them into position for Nick Folk's 53-yard winning field goal.

"If we play our worst football and happen to win with a field goal, that tells me something about this team," wide receiver Patrick Crayton said after the game.

The Patriots also played less than their best last week, beating Cleveland, 34-17. That's their smallest margin of victory in their five games and also ties for the fewest points scored; they've put up 38, 38, 38, 34 and 34.

This game actually is less important to both teams than most because it's a non-conference game, unlike that Patriots-Colts on Nov. 4, which could decide who gets home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs. That's probably the most important factor in reaching the Super Bowl.

Bill Belichick, naturally, remains bland.

"We're just not that familiar with that NFC team," he says. "We play them every three years."

Actually, it's every four. But his message, naturally, is parroted by his players.

"I don't think of it as a measuring stick," cornerback Ellis Hobbs says. "We think of it as a big game because it's the next game. Obviously, from the record standpoint this is the best team we've faced up to this point."

It's still a great matchup, a sideshow, including the presence in the same game of Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, two extremely talented but often disruptive wide receivers who have been on their best behavior this season.

PATRIOTS, 34-31

Oakland (plus 10) at San Diego

Strange but true: The 2-2 Raiders lead the AFC West.

Not much longer.

CHARGERS, 31-13

Washington (plus 3) at Green Bay

The four NFC East teams have lost only two non-division games. Both to the Packers.

PACKERS, 20-16

New Orleans (plus 61â2) at Seattle (Sunday night)

Yes, the Saints are that bad.

SEAHAWKS, 27-17

New York Giants (minus 31â2) at Atlanta (Monday night)

The way the Giants are playing, Tom Coughlin's job is safe.

GIANTS, 31-13

Carolina (plus 4) at Arizona

Kurt Warner is on his own now. So is David Carr.

CARDINALS, 20-17

Tennessee (plus 3) at Tampa Bay

The Titans escaped despite three Vince Young interceptions.

Not this week. Neither the interceptions nor the win.

BUCS, 17-16

Cincinnati (minus 3) at Kansas City

No defense (the Bengals) vs. no offense.

CHIEFS, 19-18

Minnesota (plus 5) at Chicago

Brian Griese has a lot more experience than Tarvaris Jackson, who's expected to be back at QB for the Vikings.

BEARS, 17-10

Philadelphia (minus 3) at Jets

Chad Pennington threw three interceptions last week against the Giants, who use Philadelphia's defensive schemes.

EAGLES, 35-13

Houston (plus 61â2) at Jacksonville

The Jaguars are allowing just 10 points a game, and that includes a touchdown by Kansas City in garbage time last week.

JAGUARS, 13-6

Miami (plus 41â2) at Cleveland

The Browns are so improved they held New England to its smallest margin of the season.

BROWNS, 31-20

St. Louis (plus 10) at Baltimore

Two banged-up offensive lines.

RAVENS, 19-10

Last week: 5-8-1 (spread); 10-4 (straight up)

Season: 38-34-4 (spread); 50-26 (straight up)

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