Sporting Box

Roger Clemons
  • Roger Clemons

Remember when the Patriots were the baddest team in the NFL? They'd come to your town, trample small children on their way to the gridiron, run up the score until it was 63 to 9, throw a 60-yard pass for a touchdown with three seconds left in the fourth quarter, sneer at your women, deride your manhood, and stride off the field looking like an SS-Panzer-Generalkommando victory parade. Let's face it, North America was seized with fear.

The New England Patriots are unbeatable, guaranteed to go 16 and 0 in the regular season, then 2-0 through the playoffs, then win Super Bowl XLII and finish at 19-0. Nobody has seen anything like this since television went to 500 channels.

The one possible upset to the Pats is the Pats, who have been trying to lose for the past month. No, I don't mean plotting, scheming, or paying a coach to videotape the 3-11 New York Jets at practice hoping to steal pointers on how to lose. That would be wrong. Besides, they've already done that.

No, the real upset is that weird thing that happens in sports, otherwise known as, "playing down to the level of your opponent." There's a tug, a tidal, primordial force that causes human beings to group together. If you're a much better tennis player than Tom, and you start practicing with him, pretty soon you're going to be only a little better than Tom. And, conversely, the quickest way to improve your tennis is to play against someone who is much better than you. If you've played one-on-one sports -- table tennis, pool, squash -- you know what I mean.

Back to the Patriots... The Pats haven't covered the spread in three out of the past four weeks. They could have lost three of those games, and should have lost two.

Week 15, Sunday last. New York Jets at New England. The spread is 24 points. Pats win 20 to 10. Do not cover. The Jets, a 3-10 team going in, played the Pats straight up in the second half.

Week 14, Pittsburgh at New England. The spread is 12 points. Pats win 34 to 13. Covered.

Week 13, New England at Baltimore. The spread is 20 1/2 points. Pats win 27 to 24. Do not cover.

Week 12. New England at Philadelphia. The spread is 23 points. Pats win 31 to 28. Do not cover.

New England is at home against Miami on Sunday and will win that one. But, New England's next game, their last game, the one on December 29, on the road against the New York Giants, that one could be interesting.

The Giants have lost three in a row, their last defeat, 22-10, was at home against the Redskins. To make it worse, four-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey acquired a broken left fibula during the contest and is out for the season. And then there is the Eli Manning problem and the Tom Coughlin problem.

Here's the deal: The Pats are in the postseason, have earned a bye week and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Giants will make the playoffs on Sunday if they win or tie Buffalo or if Washington and New Orleans lose or tie.

Buffalo (7-7) is out of the playoffs but has a good chance of beating New York on Sunday. They beat Washington two weeks ago. Washington plays Minnesota away and is the dog by 6 1/2 points. I don't expect them to win, but you never know. New Orleans plays Philly at home and the Eagles could win that one.

We want this to go easy because if it does, that will set up the 15-0 Pats going for a perfect season vs. the 9-6 Giants needing a win to make the playoffs.

There is the pressure of losing week after week, but that's nothing compared to the pressure of winning week after week. Which brings us to golf and Tiger Woods. Stay with me. It's not that Tiger wins so much or has won so long, it's that he's still (11 years plus since turning pro) so far out in front of everybody else.

On Sunday, Woods won the Target World Challenge, the last tournament of 2007, for the fourth time. He shot 22 under par. Second place, seven shots back, was this year's Masters champion Zach Johnson. Woods hasn't played golf since September 30.

Eighth-place finisher Colin Montgomerie wrapped it up: "Doesn't help us, does it? If he took a bloody year off, it wouldn't help."

Bad Sports blog is officially open for business (SanDiegoReader.com/weblogs/bad-sports/). BYOB.

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