When they're not wowing me with their across-the-board excellence or making me marvel at their radically revamped passing attack, the Patriots crack me up.
Minutes after celebrating their last-minute touchdown in a 48-27 thrashing of the Cowboys with the intensity of a high school team clinching victory in a rivalry game, some of the Patriots' players charged into the tunnel leading to the visitors' locker room at Texas Stadium loudly gloating about their triumph, with at least one screaming, "I guess we ate all that popcorn."
This was a reference to the relatively innocuous tag line of a note left for reporters last week by the Cowboys' Terrell Owens: "Getcha popcorn ready," meaning the battle of 5-0 teams would be a hell of a show. A few seconds after beginning an interview session with reporters at his locker, veteran New England safety Rodney Harrison looked at the debris near his feet and asked, "What is this? Popcorn?"
Yep, it sure was. "OK," he said, shrugging for effect. Everyone laughed.
Clearly, the Pats had seized upon T.O.'s statement as an unconscionable slight, an interesting take considering that a) it wasn't; b) everyone in the free world picked the Pats to win this game; and c) they've been the popular pick to win their fourth Super Bowl of the decade since at least April.
Yet here's the hilarious thing about the Pats: When you ask them, point blank, if they used the perceived slight as motivation, they tell you, to a man, with a straight face: "We don't really pay attention to what other people say. We just go about our business and let other people talk."
Are they laughing on the inside? Are they delusional? Are they the most sensitive souls in sports?
I'm not really sure, but I do know this: The Patriots and the Colts are alone at the top of the popcorn popper, and everyone else is an oily kernel hoping for a little lift.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: When they visit the Patriots Dec. 9, will they fare any better than the Cowboys did Sunday?
6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Did Jack Del Rio really call that second-quarter onside kick, and can we please have more of that bravado?
8. Baltimore Ravens: How much does this team love the NFC West?
9. New York Giants: Does Tony Kornheiser have a head shot of Tom Coughlin as his screen saver?
11. Washington Redskins: When Roberto Duran saw what went down in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field, did the former boxing great say, "No Moss"?
14. Seattle Seahawks: On NBC's next broadcast from Seattle, will some enterprising producer decide to dangle a camera from the top of the Space Needle?
19. Oakland Raiders: Hey, Rob Ryan – if you can't stop the run with an eight-man front, should you consider playing nine in the box or just give up altogether?
20. Chicago Bears: Did you ever think we'd be writing about how the Bears' defense is killing them?
21. Denver Broncos: Do you guys have any good Rockies ticket connections?
24. New Orleans Saints: Was that a one-time flashback, or does this team once again have an offense – and a pulse?
25. Minnesota Vikings: Given the way most running backs are treated come contract time, shouldn't Adrian Peterson demand to renegotiate his rookie deal right now?
27. Cincinnati Bengals: Are you covering your eyes yet?
28. Buffalo Bills: Think they worked on onside-kick recoveries over the bye week?
29. New York Jets: Did FOX's Jay Glazer sell that "Spygate" videotape to the Eagles before Sunday's game?
- the Cowboys