- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Sixteen games. Sixteen wins. Sixteen chances for the New England Patriots to talk about how worried they are about their upcoming opponent.

And with the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to town for Saturday’s second-round AFC playoff game, the Patriots are spouting the party line they have held to all year.

And why not? It didn’t hurt them during the regular season.

“They’re a very good team,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “Teams that are in this position are the best teams in the league. There’s a reason why Jacksonville is playing this week. They do a lot of things very well.”

Ditto from safety Rodney Harrison: “We’ve got our hands full, to say the least. We’d better be on top of our own game plan if we expect to win.”

And defensive lineman Richard Seymour: “We have a lot of respect for this football team. We definitely have our work cut out for us.”

The Patriots earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs with the perfect regular season that was just one of the NFL records they set. New England also scored a record 589 points and 79 touchdowns, while Brady’s 50 touchdown passes and Randy Moss’ 23 touchdown catches were the best in league history. But coach Bill Belichick and his team insist they’re not overly confident heading into their game against the Jaguars.

“When you get to this point in the season, everyone deserves to be here. This just happens to be probably one of the better ones that’s out there,” fullback Heath Evans said. “Bill preached for the last week that it was going to be a team that’s good, that deserved to be here, and they’ve got the same record that we do in this tournament.”

Actually, the Jaguars are 1-0 in the postseason after earning a wild card berth with an 11-5 record in the regular season. And while the Patriots have yet to be tested in the playoffs, their quest for perfection put added pressure on every regular-season game — especially the finale, when they rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat the New York Giants and wrap up the league’s first perfect regular season since the 1972 Dolphins won all 14 games.

“To see what we’ve accomplished this far is great. But as Coach put it, there’s another mountain to climb,” Brady said. “We’re in the same position as Jacksonville, which is in the same position as Indy, which is in the same position as San Diego.”

New England’s perfect mark did give it an edge with home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs. But more important was the bye that allowed the team to rest and recover while Jacksonville had to travel to Pittsburgh in the wild card round.

Although the Patriots were too smart to express a preference for a playoff opponent, some admitted they got exactly the type of game they were hoping to watch. After jumping to an early 18-point lead, the Jaguars needed a 32-yard quarterback draw on fourth-and-2 from David Garrard to set up Josh Scobee’s game-winning 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining.

“You like to see a game like that because while they’re out there pounding each others heads in, you’re on the couch, eating popcorn and chilling,” Harrison said.

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