After a week of rest, the New England Patriots continue their pursuit of perfection in Buffalo on Sunday night.
Well, sort of. From Bill Belichick to the Bradys (Tom and Kyle), the Pats are in ``one-game-at-a-time'' mode, with a slight concession that ``all that counts is January.''
The latter line is Tom Brady's standard answer to all questions.
But the better line this week was from Kyle Brady, the 35-year-old tight end whose offseason signing has gone unnoticed among the team's high-profile acquisitions.
``It's kind of like the Iditarod, those sled dogs,'' he said. ``Every single day you have to pull that sled and at night you eat your food and think about pulling that sled the next day.''
If the Patriots win - and they beat the Bills 38-7 at home on Sept. 23 - they will become the 10th team since 1970 to start 10-0. Five of the previous nine teams won the Super Bowl and one that didn't, the 1990 49ers, lost in the NFC championship game to the Giants, who also started 10-0 that season and went on to win the title.
Overlooked in the hubbub over New England's run toward a perfect season is that the Patriots actually have had a longer streak over two seasons. They won 18 straight regular-season games in 2003-04, and 21 in a row counting two playoff wins and a Super Bowl victory over Carolina.
The Bills are not to be taken lightly. They've won four straight, although by a total of only 30 points, including a 13-10 victory over winless Miami last week. They've used two quarterbacks to do it: rookie Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman, who will start Sunday night.
But they're also hurt and now have 12 players on injured reserve. Rookie running back Marshawn Lynch sprained his left ankle against the Dolphins and is unlikely to play. Fourth-round pick Dwayne Wright and veteran Anthony Thomas will share the load if he can't.
Despite Buffalo's winning streak and the site of the game, New England is favored by more than two touchdowns, a spread that's become standard as the Patriots become more dominant and Belichick keeps his starters in well into the fourth quarter, even in one-sided games.
The party line on the spread?
``Meaningless,'' Belichick says.
He'll be saying the same thing at 10-0, 11-0 and on to the playoffs.
In other games Sunday, the New York Giants are at Detroit; Oakland at Minnesota; Tampa Bay at Atlanta; Carolina at Green Bay; New Orleans at Houston; Cleveland at Baltimore; Kansas City at Indianapolis; Arizona at Cincinnati; Miami at Philadelphia; San Diego at Jacksonville; Pittsburgh at the New York Jets; Chicago at Seattle; Washington at Dallas; and St. Louis at San Francisco
Tennessee is at Denver on Monday night.
Washington (5-4) at Dallas (8-1)
Dallas' 31-20 road win over the Giants, perceived to be the NFC's third-best team, has given the Cowboys the same elite status in the NFC as the Patriots have in the AFC. New England, after all, was the only team to beat them and the Cowboys did lead in the third quarter of that game.
In fact, while Wade Phillips is far more amiable and available than Belichick, he sounds like the New England coach when he says: ``We haven't done anything yet.''
The Redskins, double-digit underdogs in a rivalry that often produces close contests, lost a game to Philadelphia they should have won. They blew a 22-13 fourth-quarter lead and ran out of timeouts with 8 minutes to play, leading to a lot of questions for Joe Gibbs. That was the third game they lost this season after leading at the half.

New York Giants (6-3) at Detroit (6-3)
Maybe it's the perception that the real Lions are still inept. Or maybe it's the fact that Detroit had minus-18 yards rushing last week in its 31-21 loss in Arizona. Whatever, the Giants are favored against a team that's 4-0 at home and built for the fast indoor track at Ford Field.
Still, New York may like those conditions, too. For one thing, it gives traction to the quick pass rushers against Jon Kitna, who's not especially mobile and plays behind a so-so offensive line. The Giants' loss to Dallas last week was due in part to Tony Romo's ability to make plays after scrambling out of trouble.

Tennessee (6-3) at Denver (4-5) (Monday night)
The Titans missed a chance to move into a tie with the Colts in the AFC North by losing at home to Jacksonville. One reason: This has been a tough year for Vince Young, who has just four TD passes and 10 interceptions and isn't the running threat he was last season because of a thigh injury that's just starting to heal.
Because the AFC West is so weak, the Broncos are in the thick of the race despite injuries and ineptitude - they are next-to-last in the NFL against the run. In fact, if the Chargers hadn't gotten lucky last week against Indianapolis, Denver, San Diego and Kansas City would be tied for first with sub-.500 records.

Kansas City (4-5) at Indianapolis (7-2)
QB Brodie Croyle gets his first NFL start for the Chiefs in this rematch of a first-round playoff game last season between old buddies Herm Edwards and Tony Dungy.
Peyton Manning, who almost brought the Colts back from a 23-0 deficit in San Diego last week despite throwing six interceptions, can only hope he gets back some of the seven injured starters who missed last week's game. Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark and Tony Ugoh would be the most important, but Indy will be without Dwight Freeney, out for the season with a foot injury. Simeon Rice was signed to replace him, at least on passing downs.

San Diego (5-4) at Jacksonville (6-3)
Rarely does a team beat a power like the Colts, as the Chargers did, and get universally panned for it. That's because they blew a 23-0 lead and won only because Adam Vinatieri did the inexplicable and missed a chip-shot field goal that would have won for Indy. ``We may have stole one, but I think our players feel they earned that game,'' said Norv Turner, whose offense produced just 10 first downs and 177 yards.
The Jaguars could get David Garrard back at QB after missing three games with an ankle injury. With Garrard out and Quinn Gray in, Jacksonville gambled more - it converted three fourth downs last week in beating Tennessee.

Carolina (4-5) at Green Bay (8-1)
Sure the Panthers are having QB problems although David Carr and Vinny Testaverde both practiced this week. If Testaverde, who turned 44 on Tuesday, starts, it will make the starting QBs a combined 82 - Brett Favre is 38. Carolina's other problem is being tied for last in the NFL with just nine sacks, awful for a team whose trademark has been defense.
The Packers are overcoming one of their weaknesses, the running game. Ryan Grant, obtained from the Giants in a trade just before the season, had 119 yards rushing against Minnesota last week, his second 100-yard effort in the past three games.

Chicago (4-5) at Seattle (5-4)
The Seahawks totally shut down San Francisco last Monday night, limiting the 49ers to one first-half first down - on the last play of the half. But it remains unclear if that stemmed from good defense or bad offense from a team that's lost seven straight games.
The Bears go back to the West Coast after an unimpressive 17-6 win at Oakland in which the game turned on a 59-yard TD pass to Bernard Berrian from Rex Grossman, of all people. Grossman will start this week because, according to Lovie Smith's coaching cliche: ``Who gives us the best chance to win?''

Miami (0-9) at Philadelphia (4-5)
The Eagles made a late-season run last season to win the NFC East. And while Dallas seems out of reach, Philadelphia still could start a wild-card run against the league's last winless team.
Rookie John Beck will make his first NFL start at quarterback for the Dolphins, whose last two losses have been by 13-10 scores. If nothing else, that indicates the defense is playing better, although one of those games was on a muddy pitch in London, and the other against Buffalo's not-too-threatening offense.

Cleveland (5-4) at Baltimore (4-5)
One of the rare meetings where the new Browns go in ahead of the old Browns (the Ravens hate to be called that, don't they)? Baltimore could manage only a late touchdown last week in a 21-7 loss to defensively challenged Cincinnati, although the Ravens' defense remains OK. Those 21 points came on seven field goals.
The Browns, who lost 31-28 in Pittsburgh after leading 21-6, come in with a quarterback the Ravens could use in Derek Anderson. Anderson was drafted by the Ravens two years ago, but claimed by the Browns after Baltimore tried to sneak him through waivers on to its practice squad.

Pittsburgh (7-2) at New York Jets (1-8)
The Steelers are now tied with the Colts for the second seed in the AFC behind the Patriots. Given Indianapolis' injury problems, the Steelers could earn it as long as they win games they should - like this one.
The Jets are coming off a bye week, with Kellen Clemens making his second start at quarterback. Of more concern may be Pittsburgh's running game, one of the best, against the worst run defense in the NFL.

New Orleans (4-5) at Houston (4-5)
The Saints are lucky to be in the NFC South, where they're only a game out of the lead despite a four-game losing streak to start the season and a dismal loss at home last week to previously winless St. Louis.
The Texans have been crippled, and cornerback Dunta Robinson is the latest to go on injured reserve. Sideshow: Reggie Bush, who the Texans passed on to take Mario Williams with the first pick of the 2006 draft, makes his first appearance in Houston.

Tampa Bay (5-4) at Atlanta (3-6)
The Falcons have two straight wins with Joey Harrington at QB, but Bobby Petrino was talking this week about reinserting Byron Leftwich when Leftwich recovers from a severely sprained ankle. That's not likely to be now, but it still disturbed Harrington.
The Bucs have led the NFC South most of the season because of their defense and the fail-safe play of Jeff Garcia at QB. They are plus-3 in turnover differential.

Arizona (4-5) at Cincinnati (3-6)
With the 49ers sliding and the Rams starting 0-8, the Cardinals may be the only challenger to Seattle in the NFC West. Kurt Warner isn't the Kurt Warner of old, but he's got a decent passer rating of 86.2 playing with a torn ligament in his left elbow.
The Cardinals held Detroit to minus-18 yards rushing last week, so the Bengals may have to depend on Carson Palmer plus Shayne Graham, who kicked seven field goals last week in Baltimore.

Oakland (2-7) at Minnesota (3-6)
No surprise: Daunte Culpepper will start at quarterback for the Raiders against the team for which he played seven years and had his most success.
The Vikings go without rookie Adrian Peterson, the league's leading rusher, who injured his knee in Green Bay last week. Chester Taylor, who has been the nominal ``starter'' for most of the season replaces him, perhaps for a while.

St. Louis (1-8) at San Francisco (2-7)
These meetings used to be critical in the NFC West. They're not even critical now for draft position because the 49ers traded their first-round pick next April to New England, meaning the Patriots could win the Super Bowl and still get a top-five pick.
Alex Smith, bothered by a shoulder separation and sore forearm, is wondering if it's time to take a break as the 49ers' QB. Mike Nolan says he wishes Smith had talked to him before going public. Strange.

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