The New England Patriots go for 16-0 perfection against the New York Giants Saturday night — it's an undefeated mark achieved in the National Football League only by coach Don Shula's legendary 1972 Miami Dolphins, a team that marched through a 14-0 season on its way to the championship.
Now, it's Bill Belichick's turn. A perfect season would cement the historical status of the stone-faced Patriots' sideline man, a likely future Hall of Famer who has coached the team to three of the last six Super Bowl championships.
The Pats' domination hasn't come without controversy, however. The team was busted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the regular season's outset when a Patriots assistant was caught video-cyphoning play signals from the opposing New York Jets' sideline during a 38-14 win.
It was an embarrassing blemish for the often emotionless Belichick, one that prompted New York Post editors to mark each day's NFL standings since with an asterisk and the footnote reading, "Caught cheating."
But the Patriots haven't lost a football game since and have beaten most opponents convincingly, posting the greatest point differential in league history in a rush of offensive record-breaking.
Much of that success can be tied squarely to America's quarterback or, at least, America's most idolized quarterback — Tom Brady.
The literal Stetson Man (he's the shirtless pitchman of the cologne's ad campaign), already renowned as one of the best players of his era, has torched the opposition during a season for the ages and enters the final game in reach of the NFL's all-time record for touchdown passes in a season.
Breaking it would give him a leg up on his modern-day rival — Peyton Manning, whose Indianapolis Colts defeated the Patriots in last year's playoffs — and the perfect season would place the Patriots alongside all-time great teams.
"You know, being 16-0 would be a very special achievement, one that no other team has ever achieved," Brady told a mass of reporters during a news conference earlier this week.
Brady's appeal doesn't stop when he steps outside the lines. When the sports writers finish taking notes, Boston's gossip columnists go to work.
He has achieved near godlike status that has Boston Herald gossip girls Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa dubbing him the new John F. Kennedy Jr., an almost unheard of comparison in a city that worships intensely at the alter of its favorite sons.
One former fan who may no longer be quite as charmed by the chiseled QB, however, is his most recent ex-girlfriend, 37-year-old actress Bridget Moynihan, who gave birth in August to a baby Brady named John Edward Thomas or Jet.
While a traditionalist might consider the out-of-wedlock birth a knock on Brady's image as "Teflon Tom," at least one woman was unfazed. Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen has been snapped by paparazzi on Brady's throwing arm from Manhattan to Miami Beach.
Fatherhood didn't spoil Brady's game, and he enters Saturday night's showdown two touchdown passes shy of Manning's miracle mark of 49.
Brady has multiple options in his receiving corps, none more dangerous than Randy Moss, a playmaker who arrived in New England in the off-season with a mixed reputation of extreme talent balanced by questionable character. But Moss has since silenced critics by keeping his mouth shut and hauling in a league-leading 21 touchdown catches, many of the improbable and dramatic variety.