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Pats to get first real test?

The New England Patriots have coasted through some of the NFL's worst defenses on their way to the best start in franchise history. The Washington Redskins figure to provide a much tougher challenge.

The NFL's most dominant team looks to hit the halfway point of the season with its perfect record still intact Sunday afternoon when the Redskins make their first visit to Gillette Stadium.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made New England -16.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 48 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on New England -16.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

While Indianapolis also has yet to lose, there is little doubt that New England (7-0) has been the league's best team in the season's first two months. The Patriots have won each of their seven games by at least 17 points, setting an NFL record for consecutive victories by that total to open a season.

New England's top-ranked offense has appeared to be toying with opponents at times, and Tom Brady is on pace for 61 touchdown pases which would shatter the NFL record of 49 set in 2004 by Peyton Manning.

There may still be more than half a season remaining, but it is hard to deny that the Patriots are a legitimate threat to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to go undefeated in an entire season.

A potential danger for New England is a showdown against the 6-0 Colts looming on Nov. 4 in Indianapolis. One of the Patriots' biggest strengths, however, is their ability to focus solely on the next game, a trait that comes directly from coach Bill Belichick.

"I don't think our record means anything as far as this week goes," Belichick said. "We just try to take each week at face value, for what it is, where our team is, where our opponent is, how we can maximize the opportunity."

New England's last four wins have come against Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas and Miami. The Browns, Bengals and Dolphins are the bottom three teams in the NFL in scoring defense while Dallas is marginally better, ranking 21st.

A matchup against winless Miami last Sunday proved to be nothing more than a chance for Brady and his receivers to pad their already impressive stats as the Patriots rolled to another big victory, 49-28.

Brady completed 21 of 25 passes for 354 yards and a team-record six touchdowns, one week after he passed for a season-high 388 yards and five TDs in a 48-27 win at Dallas.

Wes Welker had another outstanding game with nine catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Randy Moss had four receptions for 122 yards and two scores, giving him a league-leading 10 TD catches this season.

"Those guys are making the plays," Brady said. "I'm just throwing it. They're making my job awful easy."

Brady has beaten every NFL team as a starter except Washington (4-2). In his only career appearance against the Redskins on Sept. 28, 2003, he was 25-of-38 for 289 yards and two touchdowns but threw three interceptions in a 20-17 loss.

The Patriots lead the NFL by wide margins in scoring (39.9), total offense (432.9) and passing offense (299.4). Washington, meanwhile, ranks third in scoring defense (14.7) and is fifth in total defense (276.8) and eighth in passing defense (196.2).

New England has won eight straight against NFC opponents, and is 24-4 versus the opposite conference since the start of the 2001 season. That record includes three Super Bowl victories.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs knows his team is a facing a monumental challenge Sunday.

"We'll probably be the biggest underdog in the history of sports," he said Monday. "Has anything held up against them? Do you have a game plan that will work against them? If you do, leave it here. Because I don't think anybody else has got one right now. We're going to struggle hard."

Any chance the Redskins have at handing the Patriots their first loss likely depends on their defense because Washington is 25th in total offense (304.5), scoring more than 30 points just once this season.

The Redskins produced a disappointing 160 total yards in Sunday's 21-19 win over visiting Arizona with star running back Clinton Portis rushing 18 times for a season-worst 43 yards.

"Their quarterback has thrown for 27 touchdowns, and we don't even have 27 touchdowns," Portis said. "We've just got to find a way to exploit our talent."

Washington and Buffalo are the only teams without a touchdown pass to a wide receiver this season.

Portis' struggles haven't helped take any pressure off Jason Campbell, whose 78.5 rating puts him 25th among NFL quarterbacks. Portis, who missed the entire preseason with a knee injury, is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry and hasn't reached the 100-yard mark in 11 games.

Portis may have to go up against five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour, who practiced with the Patriots for the first time this season Wednesday. Seymour is on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury.

"They have (talent) all the way across the board," Gibbs said. "You hate to see them get somebody back that's a high-quality guy, too, to add to it. Not a pretty picture."

The Redskins have won the last six meetings against the Patriots, who haven't beaten Washington since Oct. 1, 1972.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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