The pressure is off. The competition is less than stiff. And the New England Patriots are in position to shock the world, again.
The Patriots have taken to the underdog role very kindly.
Contrary to public opinion back in September, the Patriots have continued to do what they've done best since Bill Belichick took over.
Even Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, who said during a pregame ESPN interview, "Who they got on that team beside Tom Brady? It's not like they've got a gang of dogs over there. They have a bunch of all-right guys. You know what I mean?"
If Porter really believes that, shame on him. He doesn't get it.
As for the Patriots winning the Super Bowl?
Obviously, it wouldn't be easy. The Jets are for real. The Tennessee Titans have a championship defense. The Colts have Peyton Manning.
And then, of course, there are the New York Giants, probably the best team in the NFL.
But it says here that it could happen. Everything is in place, despite a few warts (see Patriots secondary), for it to happen.
And here are 10 reasons why:
1. Matt Cassel
Yes, at No. 1. As I noted yesterday, The Matt Cassel Story is almost a Hollywood movie. And we thought the Patriots would have to "protect" Cassel with some simplified offense. Cassel is the best player on the Patriots not named Randy Moss. He is getting better as the pressure grows. He is playing his best in the fourth quarter, a prerequisite for greatness. Two things he is doing that stick out for me: He is not making any mental mistakes and, like Tom Brady, he has learned how to buy time in the pocket by simply moving up two or three steps.