The New England Patriots, already winners of the first 15 regular season games, are looking to close out the pre-playoff schedule with a win against the Giants, keeping the rare zero in the loss column. The entire US will be able to watch as the game, originally scheduled for the NFL Network cable channel only, is now also slated for both CBS and NBC.
This Patriots team has had a bullseye on their back at least since their win over the Colts in week 9. At that point, having beaten the top challenger and defending Super Bowl champions, the eyes of football fans were looking to see who could step up to derail the express. None have. It's possible, however, given the TapeGate controversy after the week 1 win against the NY Jets and Belichick protegee Eric Mangini, that they've been marked men all season long.
Today's opponent, the NY Giants, are in the playoffs and are set in their playoff position. They'll finish in fifth in the NFC, and will play again next weekend. Will they rest their players, knowing that scenario? Will they play to be the Team That Knocked Off The Pats? Even if they do, will the uneven Eli Manning have what it takes?
As for the Patriots, in addition to the perfect regular season, they're chasing all time records for TD passes thrown (QB Tom Brady), TD passes caught (WR Randy Moss), and points in a season, among other records. Will those pursuits interfere?
My prediction is the 1972 Dolphins will have company. It's the Patriots by 24-13. I don't think Eli Manning has enough in his arsenal to get the job done, and if the Patriots sack him a couple of times hard Coach Tom Coughlin would be smart to sit him and get ready for the playoffs, rather than risk a late season injury with a playoff spot assured.