The perception is that the New England Patriots are awesome, the result of their NFL record 20-game winning streak. In truth, they just win, not
overwhelm - their margin of victory during the streak is just about nine points per game.
But the perception is one reason New England is favoured by 6 1/2 points for Sunday's meeting in Foxboro with the New York Jets, a game between two of
the NFL's three remaining unbeaten teams with the AFC East lead on the line.
The spread also conveys some skepticism about the Jets.
They are 5-0, but the teams they've beaten are a combined 6-22. Take away San Diego's three wins and Cincinnati, Buffalo, Miami and San Francisco have
just three wins among them, and one of those is by the Bills over the Dolphins.
Still, the game provides Bill Belichick with a way to take attention off the winning streak and put it on what he and his players say is their only
goal this year - winning another Super Bowl. While a win this week would set yet another record of most consecutive regular-season wins at 18, the
more important issue truly is the division title.
There's also the "get the big guys" factor.
"Everyone wants to beat the people who are on the top," quarterback Tom Brady says. "With us winning the championship last year and being 5-0 this
year, everyone is ready to take us down. We know that. We feel that. We are doing everything that we can to not allow that to happen, but we are
always going to get all of these teams' best efforts."
Last week's Seattle game demonstrates why the Patriots have won 20 in a row. Brady fumbled, then was intercepted as the Seahawks rallied from a 20-3
deficit. But he produced 10 points on the next two drives to help put away the victory.
And Bethel Johnson, inactive two weeks ago for unspecified reasons, made a diving 48-yard catch to set up the clinching touchdown.
The Jets can keep it close. Most teams that play the Patriots do.
They just don't win.