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 NEW YORK (AP) - Even by Super Bowl standards, this one has it all. Unbeaten team vs. unpredictable team. Most valuable player vs. least likely Manning. New York vs. Boston. Plus a supermodel, to boot.
And kicking off the hype, Tom Brady's bum foot.
Who needs Xs and Os, anyway? Bring on Gisele!
The week before the week before the big game has barely begun, and already the buzz is brewing over the New England Patriots and New York Giants. Off the field, especially.
Fine by the NFL. In a league that loves attention and promotes itself with a TV network that provides 24-hour coverage, this is more perfect than the Pats. Besides, isn't this exactly why they have the extra-week break before the game?
Been a while since Joe Namath lounged poolside with the blondes and promised a win, or Jim McMahon paraded down Bourbon Street. Neon Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens were rank amateurs, by comparison.
If Super Bowl XLII publicists needed any more eyeballs, they've found them in XL fashion.
Funny thing, the epicenter of the football world - for the moment, anyway - isn't a snowy practice field in Foxborough, or an indoor bubble at the Meadowlands or a giant dome in the Arizona desert.
Nope, it's a neatly appointed, brick town house on a quiet, quaint street tucked away in the old, historic section of Greenwich Village. That's where the NFL's All-American boy - the dimple-chinned Brady - limped around with a walking boot on his right foot, spending time with girlfriend Gisele Bundchen.
The Patriots quarterback also showed up with a bouquet of flowers. Nice for her; nice for the New York Post headline writers, too.
``FLOWERY TOM A POSY PATSIE,'' the newspaper blared Tuesday.
OK, hardly the Ickey Shuffle or the Super Bowl Shuffle. But a glam start building toward America's No. 1 sporting event, a game on Feb. 3 in suburban Phoenix that's expected to attract 1 billion viewers all over the globe.
Then again, maybe it's all a ruse. The conspiracy theorists were out in full force Tuesday on WFAN, the all-sports radio station in New York, suggesting that the 18-0 Patriots put Brady in a soft cast merely to confuse the Giants. In fact, there are pictures aplenty on the Web, showing Brady squiring Bundchen from her West Village pad to an East Village hotspot minus the boot.
Brady isn't addressing whether anything is seriously amiss. The two-time Super Bowl MVP simply said he was ``a little nicked up'' and that, ``I'd have to be on a stretcher to miss this one.''
David Letterman, meanwhile, offered his own plan. The ``Late Show'' suggested the Giants might consider slipping last year's Super Bowl MVP, Peyton Manning, into the No. 10 jersey worn by his brother, Eli.
Eli may not have the cache of his older brother, but at least he did not make the same mistake that Brett Favre did, throwing an interception that cost the Green Bay Packers a chance to beat the Giants in overtime last weekend.
After that victory in the NFC championship game, the brothers talked on the phone.
``He said I'm past the point where he can give me advice anymore,'' Eli said. ``He wants it the other way now. I don't know if I agree with him, but it's great to hear it from him. I'll take all the advice I can get.''
He's sure to hear plenty. Over the years, the break between the league conference games and the Super Bowl has varied between one week and two weeks. The coaches and players usually want to get going; NFL handlers like the anticipation to percolate.
It's bound to happen, particularly with a built-in rivalry. Beantown vs. the Big Apple once again, this time on the gridiron instead of the diamond.
Leave it to Red Sox star Curt Schilling to throw out the first pitch. Many Yankees rooters still think his famous bloody sock in the 2004 postseason was a stunt, and he knows exactly how rival fans feel about the perfect Patriots.
``I love it,'' he told the Boston Herald, ``that everyone else hates them!''

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