By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
August 26, 2006

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If you buy into the theory that the only two pre-season games worth giving a hoot about are the second and third ones, then your New England Patriots have acquitted themselves quite nicely, haven't they?

But before we go searching for the phone number of your second cousin who lives in Boca Raton along with the vain hope he doesn't see through our attempt to land cheap accommodations for Super Bowl XLI, let's hold on for a minute. Any objective observer would tell you that the NFC is the junior varsity compared to the AFC. The final four AFC teams from a year ago - the Patriots, Broncos, Colts or Steelers - all would have or did beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl XL.

The point here is that the Patriots cleaned the clocks of two average teams at home this pre-season. This is what a good team does during these meaningless games. Believe me, I'm just as pleased as you are up to this point. How could I not be? Tom Brady looks sharp. The defense is cohesive and the kicking game does not look like an adventure. It's also fairly evident that this is still a well-coached team despite turnover at the coordinator positions the last few years.

So am I worried about this Patriots team and its chances to raise another Vince Lombardi? I'll give you a hint: If I had a tattoo it would say "Calvinist” right across my deltoid.

I wish I could just let it go and enjoy the games as they come. But no, I have to habitually wait for the other shoe to drop. In some ways, the Patriots' three Super Bowl championships have diminished the thrill of following a climbing team. During the sad years of this franchise, apologetic fans would tell one another "They're developing.” I dare say that a ride like the 1967 Red Sox or the 2001 Patriots is a lot more exciting than a vindication affair like the Patriots third championship.

But the more thought I give to the 2006 Patriots season, the more intrigued I become. This interest comes from the many observers and fans of other teams who have left the Patriots for dead. "Hey Patsie, their window of opportunity slammed shut that night in Denver,” they'll say.

Fine, Mr. Colts Fan. Knock us down a notch or two. Mention the lack of depth at linebacker. The Deion Branch contract situation is certainly an unwelcome distraction as the season comes closer to fruition. Oh, they'll also mention that they have a certain #4 kicking for their team and we have an unproven rookie kicker. And if you're Archie Bunker-honest with yourself, you'll see this flatlander from Indiana might have a point or two.

Now we got a little edge. Suddenly, you want to crank up "Crazy Train” in the car on your way to pick up the kids at daycare. You dare some football analyst on television to casually dismiss the Patriots in favor of a flavor-of-the-month like the Dolphins or Chiefs. It's more interesting to enter a season as an older mid-1970s Muhammad Ali trying to lay claim to being the "Greatest of All Time” rather than being a young late-1980s Mike Tyson who couldn't be beat.

If the Patriots can somehow lay claim to a fourth title in a six year span, they will indeed become the Ali of modern professional football. The Steelers of the 70s were amazing as were the 49ers of the 80s. But the argument that will sway the title towards this Patriots team is the parity in the League that was non-existent back in those decades.

If you need proof that there were two different Leagues at the time, find an old Patriots fan. They'll howl with laughter. "They didn't have a chance,” they'll say.

Just like they're now saying about the 2006 Patriots.

Idle Zinger thoughts while losing my mind as the Windsor Fair comes to town:

BTW, did I mention that I'm unemployed in the television analysis area so far this season? I could write an epistle on doing live television the last two seasons. It's not as easy as it seems. You try talking intelligently about Kerry Collins while getting a beer shower from some nitwit standing behind you outside Gillette Stadium. And then the next day, the guy standing at the next urinal in the men's room at work knows exactly what I should have said at this point.)

If you need a good laugh, watch the reaction of ESPN's Tom Jackson when that nitwit Michael Irvin says something idiotic. It's a gem.

Newsitem: NFL referees have been given an "Extreme Makeover” with their uniforms this season. Let's hope the folks at NFL Properties don't pawn Bill Belichick and his gray Jedi sweatshirt off to the gang at "What Not To Wear.”