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Should fans root for a perfect Patriots season?

Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan’s chances in the rematch against the Patriots? Like his waistline, slim.Matt Dunham/Associated Press/File 2015

To go 16-0 or not to go 16-0, that is the question facing the Patriots. It is the subtext of their season, the idea of winning every game they play as a pointed rebuttal and single-digit salute to those who question them about the air pressure in footballs, the fuzziness of radio frequencies in Foxborough, and the planting of Hooveresque bugs in the visitors' locker room.

There are Patriots fans who go into a paroxysm at the mere mention of a perfect season, scarred by the almost-perfect 2007 campaign. They'll feel much better if the Patriots don't go 16-0 before hitting the postseason, which is already a lift-the-Lombardi-or-bust proposition. The Patriots' Spygate Revenge Tour produced the NFL's only 16-0 regular season, a heap of offensive records, and a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.


It was a glorious season and a historic achievement undone at the worst possible time by Tom Brady's balky ankle and a sign-of-the-cross catch by an NFL nobody. The '07 season is remembered as fondly by some Patriots fans as the time they got chicken pox. The Patriots even removed the 16-0 banner from Gillette Stadium this season.

So, there are some nervous New Englanders looking at the Patriots' 7-0 start, watching a league that looks like Bill Belichick and the 31 dwarfs and asking, where is our deliverance from another dreaded perfect season? I'm here to help. Ranked from 1-9, here are the opponents most likely to spare the Patriots the indignity of going 16-0 again.

1. Denver Broncos (Nov. 29) — Brady-Manning XVII in Denver remains the biggest remaining hurdle. Even if every time Peyton Manning throws it looks like he is competing in the shot put, he is still smart enough to expose the Patriots' collection of corners. With old friend Aqib Talib, the Broncos entered Sunday tops in the league in total defense and passing defense. Denver has been a house of horrors for the Patriots historically, and Manning has extra motivation from Brady's leaked e-mails dismissing his longevity.


Likelihood of a loss: (Mile) High.

2. New York Giants (Nov. 15) — If it's not one Manning on the road it could be another. Eli Manning and Giants coach Tom Coughlin should list "undoing Patriots history and derailing dynasties" as hobbies on Facebook. It was Coughlin's Giants who forced the Patriots to settle for 18-1 and then further prolonged the Patriots' wait for a fourth championship in Super Bowl XLVI. Elite Eli led game-winning, fourth-quarter drives both games. Belichick and Brady have lost their last three meetings to the Giants. Better hope Bad Quarterback Eli Manning shows up this time.

Likelihood of a loss: Medium.

3. New York Jets (Dec. 27) — The Jets are the only team that led the Patriots in the fourth quarter so far, and the rematch is on their field. However, the Jets have put themselves in the Patriots' crosshairs by initiating an NFL "interrogation" of Kraft Sports employees they feared might be fiddling with radio frequency equipment during the Patriots' 30-23 victory Oct. 25. The NFL also conducted a "random" sweep of the visiting locker room for bugs that day. Belichick never needs motivation to stick it to the J-E-T-S.

Likelihood of a loss: It's fuzzy.

4. Miami Dolphins (Jan. 3) — This might be a surprise after the Patriots dismantled the Dolphins on Thursday. The odds of macho motivational speaker interim head coach Dan Campbell cracking the Belichick Code seem slim. However, Joe Philbin defeated the Patriots each of the last two seasons in Sun Life Stadium. This would be the Patriots' regular-season finale, so there would be additional pressure, and something about South Florida seems to turn Brady into a mortal QB.


Likelihood of a loss: (Campbell grunting noise.)

5. Philadelphia Eagles (Dec. 6) — New Hampshire native Chip Kelly is supposed to be an innovative coach who can match wits with Belichick. The Patriots basically cribbed their up-tempo, no-huddle attack from Kelly's Oregon teams. Also, the Philly defense came into Sunday leading the NFL in takeaways with 19. Taking the ball from the Patriots is the only way to stop them.

Likelihood of a loss: Doubtful, like Kelly's dubious personnel moves.

6. Buffalo Bills (Nov. 23) — Rex Ryan's Bills have done more infighting than bullying, with defensive players such as Mario Williams carping at Ryan for how they've been employed, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins lashing out at fans on social media. The Patriots hung 40 on Rex and deflated an entire region in the first meeting. But dismissing Rex after blowing him out has cost the Patriots in the past.

Likelihood of a loss: Slim, like Ryan's re-sculpted waist line.

7. Houston Texans (Dec. 13) — The Patriots travel to Houston to renew acquaintances with former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien and ex-Pat Vince Wilfork. They say don't mess with Texas, but the Texans are just a mess. However, O'Brien and a staff that includes former Patriot Mike Vrabel and former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel know how Brady and Belichick think, and Belichick apprentices Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini were able to score wins over their former boss.


Likelihood of a loss: Extremely doubtful, point blank.

8. Tennessee Titans (Dec. 20) — The Titans entered Sunday second in the league in pass defense. That's good. But they dropped to 1-6. That's bad. A losing team with a rookie quarterback, Marcus Mariota, isn't beating the Patriots at home in December.

Likelihood of a loss: The same as a Kardashian winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

9. Washington (Nov. 8) — The Patriots' next victim is Washington. Coach Jay Gruden desperately wants to prove that Kirk Cousins can be a successful NFL quarterback. There are so many things wrong with that sentence. A team this unproven at coach and QB isn't beating the Patriots. This could be another 52-7 shellacking like Washington absorbed in '07.

Likelihood of a loss: The same as Dan Snyder changing his team's nickname — NEVER.

My advice Patriots fans, brace for and embrace perfection.

Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cgasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.