Dynasty destiny?

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

The coach has been compared to the late, legendary leader of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi. The quarterback has been likened to the man who set the standard for Super Bowl success with the San Francisco 49ers, Joe Montana.

But it is the dominant dynamic of a complete team that has the New England Patriots in position to etch a memorable place in NFL history.

Should the Patriots play to their status as seven-point favourites over the Philadelphia Eagles tonight at Alltel Stadium here in Jacksonville, there will be no denying their status.

A win in Super Bowl XXXIX on what is expected to be a cool evening would be the Patriots' third in the past four years. A region still basking in the magic of the Boston Red Sox triumph in the World Series would gain the added bliss of being home to a bona fide NFL dynasty.

"If they were to win three out of four years, the Patriots will be the greatest team since the salary cap was put into place," said former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who ruled the sidelines in Dallas prior to the 1994 restrictions which were designed to create parity in the league.

BLOWN AWAY

Even the quarterback of that Cowboys team, Troy Aikman, is blown away by what the Patriots have shown since winning their first Super Bowl three years ago in New Orleans.

Aikman, who will be the game analyst for Fox TV, said the Patriots have done something he believed to be impossible in the modern-day NFL.

"I know a lot of my (former) teammates don't want to hear it, but with as much parity as there is in this league, what they have done is so impressive," Aikman said. "We knew going into the season that there probably were four teams that would compete against us for the Super Bowl.

"Now, you can pretty much say that all 32 teams going into the season have a chance."

Not when their opponent is the Patriots, however. Led by quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, New England prevailed in what was considered a tough AFC with largely stress-free playoff wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Though they had a 21-game winning streak snapped in the middle of the season, the team which won last year's Bowl in Houston has imposed back-to-back 14-2 regular seasons on its opponents.

"Dynasties are for others to talk about," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We don't talk about that. We are worried about the Eagles."

The foe tonight is the best of what widely is considered to be the weaker NFC. But Philadelphia is no slouch. During that 21-game blitz by the Pats, the Eagles went 18-3. They have been the dominant team in the NFC for the past three seasons and tonight finally will have their first Super Bowl bid to show for it.

DAUNTING TASK

Despite the daunting task that awaits, the Eagles have carried themselves with an air of looseness and confidence since arriving here last Sunday.

If that attitude carries through to kickoff, it will come in handy against the veteran-laden Patriots, who seem to slap away pressure with the same verve that their defenders pummel opponents.

"I think whenever you get as close as we are right now, you can taste it," McNabb said. "You never know how big it really is until it actually happens.

"We have a great opportunity right now and that's why we want to take full advantage of it."

So do the Patriots, of course, a team which keeps its thoughts on greatness private but speaks on the field. Should they win the statement will speak for itself -- teams such as the Steelers of the '70s, 49ers of the '80s and Cowboys of the '90s will have company among their sport's greats.


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