The Best Ever?

The Patriots are looking to become the first team in NFL history to go 16-0 in a regular season and join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only unbeaten teams in the modern era of the NFL. The question now is whether the Patriots are the best of all-time?

Typically, our web pages are loaded with items directly related to the Vikings. This one is a little different, because tonight we're likely to see NFL history made.

With either one touchdown or a couple of field goals, the New England Patriots will pass the 1998 Vikings for the all-time single-season scoring title, which currently stands at 556 – the Patriots are at 551.

It should be noted that those two teams have one thing in common – both had Randy Moss as a key game-breaker. For the Vikings, he was dynamic rookie that changed the way the game was played and how wide receivers were viewed in subsequent draft days. In that season, the Vikings went 15-1 with their only loss being a 27-24 loss to Tampa Bay in which the Bucs never punted or turned the ball over – and the Vikings had the ball in the final three minutes with a chance to win.

This year's Patriots team is on the verge of becoming the first team in history to go 16-0 in a regular season. Moss has been in the center of the firestorm. Coincidence? I don't think so – but I've remained a mark for Moss since he came to the NFL and feel somewhat vindicated by those who called him a cancer and said the Patriots were idiots to trade for him. Who's laughing now?

What makes this Patriots team so intriguing is that I'm convinced this is the best team ever. I was too young to remember the 1972 Dolphins and their perfect season, but they were far from dominant and played in an era where indentured slavery existed and franchises that were good stayed good for years and most that were bad remained bad for the same period of time. In an era where teams can go from the penthouse to the outhouse and vice versa in the blink an eye, perfection is something that is almost impossible. The Patriots have already pulled off the only modern-era dynasty in the full-blown era of free agency. But is this team the best ever?

Had the Vikings won the Super Bowl after the 1998 season, they would have been mentioned as one of the greatest teams of the modern era if not all time. It's hard not to give it to the '72 Dolphins because they finished the deal – 14-0 was a regular-season mark and the Patriots haven't finished off the season yet. If they lose to the Jaguars, Colts or the NFC entrant in the Super Bowl, there will be a little of the gleam off the gold, but what they have accomplished is amazing.

You can have your '72 Dolphins or '85 Bears or '92 49ers. All great teams. For my money, the 1969 Vikings would have been that team had they not lost to the Chiefs in Super Bowl III. But there is a new contender to the throne – the 2007 Patriots.

I have a friend who is a degenerate gambler and a huge football fan. About Week 4, he started making bets with people saying the Patriots wouldn't go unbeaten. To my surprise, there were a lot of takers – a lot! He'll be watching tonight's game with the chance of losing somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000. At the time he started making the bets, I thought he was on something. Nobody goes 16-0. Seeing as the Patriots were going to have to play road games against the Colts, Cowboys, Ravens and Giants, it seemed likely that one of them could put a huge game together and knock them off.

By the time they got done dismantling the Cowboys and Colts on the road, I wasn't as hard core on my stance that they wouldn't go unbeaten. By Week 10, I was now convinced. Fortunately for me, the betting window was still open and I was able to get in with seven games to play. Six down and one to go later, I've become convinced that we might be witnessing the greatest team ever to the play the game in any season.

Consider the following:

  • The team hasn't scored less than 20 points in any game. They've scored 27 or more 13 times, 34 or more 11 times and 48 or more four times.

  • At the same time, they've allowed 14 points or fewer in nine games, despite teams being forced to pass in the second half because they've typically been so far behind.

  • The Patriots have converted more than 48 percent of their third-down chances, while allowing the opposition to convert just 32 percent of the time.

  • The offense is averaging 413 yards a game, while allowing just 286.5 yards a game.

  • They have outscored their opponents by more than a 2-to-1 margin – scoring 551 points and allowing 239 points.

  • They've outscored their opponents 131-34 in the first quarter and 317-116 in the first half – giving them an average halftime score of 21-8.

  • In the second half, they've outscored their opponents 234-123.

  • A total of 21 different players have scored touchdowns, including two TDs from Mike Vrabel, who is among the league's sack leaders with 11.5.

  • The team has scored 71 touchdowns – 15 rushing, 48 passing and eight on returns, while allowing just 29 TDs – seven rushing, 19 passing and three on returns.

  • Despite allowing just 29 touchdowns, opposing kickers have attempted just 14 field goals.

  • The defense has 46 sacks, while allowing Tom Brady to be sacked just 20 times – just four times every three games.

  • Brady is just one TD away from tying the all-time record for a single season and two away from being the first QB ever with 50 TD passes in a season.

  • In 536 passes, Brady has been intercepted just eight times – an average of one pick for every 67 passes.

  • Brady has averaged a touchdown every 11 passes and has averaged more than three TD passes a game.

  • His current passer rating of 117.2 will likely be the second-highest on record – Peyton Manning had a 121.1 rating in 2004 and the current second-place mark is 112.8 by Steve Young in 1994.

  • Opposing QBs have a passer rating of just 75.4 with 19 TD passes and 18 interceptions.

  • Despite not having a rusher with more than 800 yards, the Patriots have three rushers – Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk – who have all averaged 4.5 yards a carry or better.

  • Wes Welker has 101 receptions for 1,053 yards.

  • Moss is one TD shy from the 20-year old record of 21 set by Jerry Rice in 1987 – an incredible feat considering 1987 was a strike year and Rice played in just 12 games.

  • Moss is eight receptions short of 100 for the season. In two years with the Raiders, he had 102 receptions.

  • Only nine players in the history of the NFL have caught 17 or more touchdowns in a season. Moss has done it three times, including 1998 and 2003 with the Vikings.

  • Four different players have five or more TD receptions – Moss (21), Welker (8), Ben Watson (6) and Jabar Gaffney (5).

  • Despite Moss and Welker combining for almost 200 receptions, four other Patriots have more than 30 receptions – Donte Stallworth (43), Faulk (39), Gaffney (36) and Watson (32).

  • Eight different Patriots have caught touchdown passes and seven of them have multiple TD receptions.

  • That Patriots have punted just 42 times – an average of less than three times a game.

  • The top two Patriots kick returners have averaged more than 26 yards per return.

  • Kicker Stephen Gostkowski has scored 125 points – 71 on points after touchdowns and 54 on field goals.

    These are just a few of the amazing highlights the Patriots have put together and, while there is something of a vested interest for me in the Patriots doing the unthinkable, it's time to admit that this might well be the greatest team to ever play the game. They've had a bull's-eye on their backs all season and have still found a way to beat teams by an average of more than 21 points a game. If that doesn't qualify as the best ever, what does?

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