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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Patriots have a protection plan

New England, the only team to finish a regular season 16-0, will try to keep New Orleans from getting any closer to that record and also keep a firm grip on first place in the AFC East.

November 25, 2009|Sam Farmer
  • Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots have a shot at preventing the Saints from threatening New England's record 16-0 regular season.
Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots have a shot at preventing the Saints… (David Butler II / US Presswire )

The New England Patriots don't have the perfect defense, but in Week 12 they'll be defending perfect.

They play at New Orleans on Monday, and the Saints are a club-record 10-0. New England is the only team to finish the regular season 16-0, so the Patriots have a chance to guarantee New Orleans won't threaten that record. (Tom Brady & Co. tried and failed to dent Indianapolis' pristine record two games ago.)

But it isn't about preserving history for the Patriots. They're singularly focused on the here and now, and that means tightening their grip on the AFC East. They lead Miami by two games.

New England Coach Bill Belichick has already said there's no team better than the Saints. Then again, that's his pattern. Early in the week, he builds an opponent up so much it's as if no team can beat them. Around Thursday, Belichick starts telling his players, essentially, "We might be able to beat this team if we play the perfect game." And by the end, he's telling them, "We're going to beat them, and here's how . . . "

A chance to re-boot

When Houston played at Indianapolis a few weeks ago, the Texans blew a 42-yard field-goal try at the end of regulation that would have forced overtime. (Kicker Kris Brown had nailed a 56-yard try earlier in the game.)

Now, the Colts take their unblemished record to Houston, a very tough place to play. The Texans will be focused on not derailing themselves in this game the way they did the last time, drawing 13 flags for 103 yards. They'll also look to draw a better bead on tight end Dallas Clark, who caught 14 passes for 119 yards.

Titan turnaround

In losing their first six games, the Tennessee Titans sank to the bottom of the AFC South. They're still there, but they've torn off four consecutive victories behind the outstanding play of second-chance starter Vince Young at quarterback.

On Sunday, they'll try to keep it rolling against Arizona, which has won six of seven after a 1-2 start. So far, the Cardinals have bucked the trend of Super Bowl losers taking a nose dive the following season. The question this week: Will Kurt Warner be ready to go after an apparent concussion Sunday that sidelined him for the second half?

Rough and tumble

Ben Roethlisberger reportedly will be ready to play Sunday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit Baltimore. He took a shot to the head and was knocked out of the loss at Kansas City.

The Steelers will need him at his best, or close to it, against the Ravens. That's always among the hardest-hitting games of the season. The teams have yet to face each other; they meet again in Pittsburgh two days after Christmas.

Free falling

After a 6-0 start, the Denver Broncos have lost four games in a row -- and control of the AFC West. San Diego is in first place by a game.

The Broncos have a chance Thanksgiving night to stem the bleeding against a team familiar with losing streaks. They play host to the New York Giants, who won their first five games before dropping four in a row. They ended that slide Sunday with an overtime win against Atlanta.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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