And then there's the New York Giants, oft-kicked by the local media for an uninspiring coach in Tom Coughlin and a cantankerous locker room full of egos. They drew the straw to serve as the last hurdle blocking the Patriots' path to perfection in a primetime matchup Saturday night.
But New York's G-Men, with Peyton's baby brother Eli playing quarterback, last week locked up a respectable 10-5 record, earning a wild-card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With their playoff future locked up, league-wide debate this week has cantered on how much Giants bosses should rest key players this weekend to prepare for post-season play.
Brady waded gamely into the coaching conflict this week, suggesting from his locker that Coughlin play it safe and sit his stars Saturday night — especially those dangerous defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, Brady stressed with a trademark smile.
The Giants were respectful, a bit glib, but ultimately unresponsive to Brady's request. The team's public comments suggest they're not really interested in serving up the 16-0 softball.
"It's not like they're Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples or anything like that," Umenyiora said. "It doesn't matter what the situation is, we're not going to go into a game and just give anybody a game."
Coughlin echoed the point, minus the biblical reference. "Our objective is to win," he repeatedly said.
Coughlin and Belichick, of note, are friendly colleagues, both serving as assistant coaches to Bill Parcells when the "Tuna" guided the Giants to the 1990 Super Bowl championship. For his part, Belichick said he expects nothing less than a full-tilt football game Saturday night.
The primetime matchup is undoubtedly must-see TV, so much so that the NFL backed out of exclusive contracts with three smaller affiliates in the Boston, New Hampshire and New York markets, as well as its own NFL Network, and will simulcast the game nationwide on NBC and CBS. The affiliates' lawyers, of course, doth protest the NFL's populist decision.
So like Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens said before a 48-27 drubbing by the Patriots in Week 6, "Get your popcorn ready."