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Can Patriots Go Undefeated This Season?

BOSTON (CBS) -- OK, OK, OK. OK! Once you get over the initial rage of seeing the headline the day after a win over the lowly Jaguars, take a deep breath and let's start this thing anew.

We are just three short weeks into the long, grueling NFL season. If we claim to know anything with great certainty at this point, we would be foolish. We've all seen much too much football over the years to know that what happens in September does not necessarily have any impact on what will happen in October, November, December, January or February.

Yet if we take stock of what we know now, we would say this: Many, many teams in the NFL are bad. Putrid. Awful. Terrible. Disgusting. Offensive. (That's right, NFL teams. I am offended by your existence. Be better.)

We also know this: There are but a very few good teams. The Patriots are certainly atop that list, a fact accentuated by a 51-17 win on Sunday over the putrid, awful, terrible, disgusting, offensive Jacksonville Jaguars.

And so, with the comparisons to '07 already well underway, and with the horrific prospect of a bye week coming much too early this year and therefore leaving us with an unseemly week-long break from actual substantive conversations about football, what better time than now to ask the question.

Can the Patriots go 16-0?

Again, don't get this twisted. This is not an overreaction to a big win over the putrid, awful, terrible, disgusting, offensive Jacksonville Jaguars. This is actually a conversation that some of us have had ever since the schedule was released back in April. I know myself, I believed that if the Patriots had just a little bit more talent, then 16-0 would be a real possibility, based on the degree of difficulty (or lack thereof) in their schedule. Since then, the Patriots have proven to be more talented than I expected, and those opponents have only gotten easier to beat. Take a look at how the rest of the schedule plays out for the Patriots.

Week 5 at Dallas -- No Romo, no Dez.
Week 6 at Indy -- Outscored Colts 87-27 in two games last year; Colts have gotten worse.
Week 7 vs. Jets -- Ryan Fitzpatrick
Week 8 vs. Miami -- The Dolphins lost to the putrid, awful, terrible, disgusting, offensive Jacksonville Jaguars.
Week 9 vs. Washington -- Did you see the game Thursday night?
Week 10 at Giants -- Did you see the game Thursday night?
Week 11 vs. Buffalo -- Patriots hung 40 on the Bills during Buffalo's Super Bowl. This one comes on a Monday night in Foxboro.
Week 12 at Denver -- The biggest legitimate threat for a Patriots loss. But Peyton may be throwing lefty by late November.
Week 13 vs. Philadelphia -- This once looked like a tough game. Now, not so much.
Week 14 at Houston -- The Texans' efforts to compete despite having no offense is fascinating.
Week 15 vs. Tennessee -- The 2-14 Titans look like they might improve to the 4-12 Titans. Maybe.
Week 16 at Jets -- Ryan Fitzpatrick. Geno Smith? Ryno Fitzsmithrick?
Week 17 at Miami -- Again, the Dolphins lost to the Jaguars. And they might have a celebrity coach by January. Marc Anthony? Gloria Estefan? Serena Williams? Should be fun.

Obviously this is football and things happen. The 2003 Patriots lost to the 6-10 Bills and the 5-11 Redskins. The 2004 team lost to the Steelers, who went 15-1, but also the Dolphins, who went 4-12. The '07 team, for all its regular-season greatness, needed Rex Ryan calling a timeout in Baltimore (even though he was not allowed to do so) in order to eke out that victory. The '07 team also almost lost at home to A.J. Feeley and the Eagles.

So, to say right now that the Patriots will go 16-0 would be very dumb indeed. But you have to at least consider the possibility ... and you frankly have to kill some time here on the bye week.

So what do you say? Can they pull off the second 16-0 season in history?

I say yes, but I don't think they will. I believe it ultimately hurt that 2007 team to not have lost all year long. In my opinion they played that Super Bowl like a bunch of guys who believed wholeheartedly that they could not be beaten no matter what took place on the field. Maybe I'm off, maybe I'm right, but I just saw an emotionless team that got overwhelmed by the intensity of the much less talented New York Giants on that day.

In that sense – and I think Bill Belichick would agree – there is much to be gained from a loss. Losses provide coachable moments. Losses provide reality checks. Losses remind players and coaches that anything short of exceptional execution in the NFL will likely lead to an L. And in January and February, an L means the entire season was a failure.

So while I don't think Belichick or the Patriots will purposely lose a game or anything of the sort, I do think a random stinker is in the cards along the way. Think Brady throwing interception while lying on his butt down in Miami. Think Charlie Weis dialing up a draw play to Larry Centers on a gotta-have-it third-and-5 in Landover. Or even just think back to last December, when the Patriots flat-out did not try to beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 17. (Bills Mafia is still celebrating that win, by the way.)

On the other hand, there is the enticing prospect of seeing the Patriots go undefeated after the whole world spent the offseason calling them "cheaters" over the most absurd issue in sports history. Brady already leads the league in yards and touchdowns, but wouldn't a 16-0 season be a rather nice way of extending a certain digit skyward and directing it toward the rest of the NFL? The allure is undeniable.

Anyway, let's get to your thoughts. First do you think the Patriots have a very real chance of going 16-0?

Second -- and with the obvious caveat that you care much more about the Patriots going 3-0 in the playoffs than you do about the regular season -- do you want them to go for an undefeated season?

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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