FOXBORO, Mass. (CAP) - Despite having been eliminated from the NFL playoffs at the hands of the New York Jets, the New England Patriots continue to practice on a daily basis and are planning to head to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV. Sources close to the team tell CAP News the players fully understand the tough road that lays ahead of them.
"Yes, preparing for a game that you're not actually involved in does present some unique challenges," said quarterback Tom Brady. "But like coach says, with the right level of preparation, anything is possible. We just need to focus on the task at hand and not worry about what's going to happen a week, two weeks from now."
News of the Patriots' unexpected post-season plans comes as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers get ready to make their way to Dallas, both having won all the necessary playoff games to be official participants in the Super Bowl. Even though the Vegas line favors Green Bay by 2.5 points, football pundits say the Patriots could throw a monkey wrench into the works.
"Listen, Bill Belichick is a genius and if anyone can figure out how to get the Patriots into the Super Bowl at this point in the season, it's Bill Belichick," said ESPN Sunday Countdown analyst Tom Jackson. "With that in mind, I think I'm gonna have to change my pick and say Patriots by seven.
"And by making that pick, what I'm really doing is picking one of the other teams that I didn't pick to help them get fired up for the game," added Jackson. "It's all part of that psychological thing that I do."
Most football experts agree that the only way to beat the Patriots is to get "fired up" for the game, even if the Patriots aren't playing. Much like when Brady played the 2008 Super Bowl hopping on one foot, the Patriots star quarterback will have the added challenge of playing this year's game while wearing a walking boot after having just undergone successful surgery on his right ankle.
Despite the obvious physical impairment, the current NFL injury report lists Brady as probable. However, as was his standard approach during the regular season, Bill Belichick refused to discuss the health of his players, focusing instead on his team's ability to pull off the "playoff sneak" in the next game.
"If Tom is hurt, I'm not aware of it and it's not a factor," Belichick said during a press conference about the Patriots' Super Bowl plans. "Right now we're focused on studying tape of Cowboys Stadium so we know how to get past security and onto the field. Once we're there, then we'll worry about the actual game itself."
Patriots officials said the coaching staff ran a simulated game against the Jets and the Steelers during the AFC Championship and beat them both, "and that was while Tom was on the operating table." In addition to studying tape, the team is also working on a game plan against the Steelers and one against the Packers, noting that "we'll play both teams if we have to."
Neither the Packers nor Steelers have released any official comment about the Patriots' announcement. However, CAP News caught up with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at a freshman mixer on the University of Pittsburgh campus where he acknowledged the Patriots as "a formidable opponent both on and off the field."
He then shooed us away, mumbling something about "cramping [his] style" and "if [coach Mike] Tomlin asks, I'm at home studying footage of the Packers' secondary."
- CAP News Staff