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:
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?