All this attention hasn't been nearly enough to overwhelm the New England Patriots.
The Patriots, the NFL's final remaining unbeaten team and perhaps its biggest draw for positive as well as negative reasons, look to improve to 10-0 when they face the Buffalo Bills in a game moved to Sunday night's prime-time TV slot.
New England and Buffalo (5-4) were originally scheduled to play at 1 p.m. EST, but the game being shifted to the NBC night spot means the Pats will play three straight games in prime time. New England hosts Philadelphia next Sunday night before traveling to Baltimore for a Monday night game Dec. 3.
The Patriots don't mind it at all.
"It's been that way for six years," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I think I'd rather be in this position than in any other position."
During the course of their franchise-record 9-0 start, the Pats have been praised for their overpowering offense, criticized for possibly running up the score and vilified over the "Spygate" scandal.
Even their bye week was eventful, as Hall of Fame coach Don Shula stated that he thinks New England's season should be marked with an asterisk if the Pats finish unbeaten, because they were penalized for having a camera on the sideline taping New York Jets coaches during the season opener.
"If someone questions your integrity, someone questions who you are and someone questions the organization you've been a part of ever since you walked into the league, would it upset you?" linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "So, yes, it does upset me. If they want to keep saying those things, maybe we just need to play a little bit harder."
That comment could sum up the Patriots' season. They seem to have played with extra motivation throughout, winning each game by at least 17 points until a 24-20 win at then-unbeaten Indianapolis before their week off.
They're on pace to score 631 points (the league record is 556), Brady is on a clip to throw 58 touchdown passes (record 49) and receiver Randy Moss is on pace to catch 21 touchdowns (record 22). The overshadowed defense is the fifth-ranked unit in the NFL.
"We just have a tough road ahead of us, no matter who's doing what, what the records are," tight end Kyle Brady said. "It's kind of like the Iditarod, those sled dogs. Every single day you have to pull that sled and at night you eat your food and think about pulling that sled the next day."
One of the Patriots' wins this season was a 38-7 home blowout of Buffalo on Sept. 23. The Bills, though, are 5-1 since that game, and would have won six in a row if they hadn't allowed nine points in the final 20 seconds to Dallas in a 25-24 Monday night loss Oct. 8.
They rebounded from that to win four straight entering this week's game -- their longest run in four years -- and are coming off a 13-10 victory at winless Miami.
"I don't know about anybody but me, but it doesn't wear off fast: I like the feeling of winning," Bills coach Dick Jauron said.
Oddsmakers don't think it will last. The Patriots are 14 1/2-point favorites on the road against a team that will likely be missing leading rusher Marshawn Lynch, the standout rookie who severely sprained his left ankle against Miami.
Buffalo's second-leading rusher, rookie Dwayne Wright, has 76 yards, and the Bills have 12 players on injured reserve.
Quarterback J.P. Losman, who has won two straight starts since returning from a sprained knee and regaining his starting job, was injured early in the teams' first meeting of 2007. Losman came into that game 0-3 as a starter against the Pats with a 59.7 passer rating.
Bills quarterbacks have just three touchdowns passes this year, while Brady has 11 times that number.
"Obviously, we realize it's going to be tough," defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "But at the same time, we know that it's not impossible."
It didn't seem possible Sept. 23 in a game Buffalo actually led. After Losman's injury, rookie Trent Edwards directed a drive that culminated in a Lynch touchdown to put the Bills up 7-3, but Brady threw four TDs passes as New England responded with 35 unanswered points.
The Patriots outgained the Bills 485-193 -- 100 yards more than the Bills have allowed in any game since. In their last six contests, the Buffalo defense has allowed an average of 14.5 points.
Holding a Patriots club that's averaging 39.4 points to such a low number will be a major challenge, however. Several teams have gone this deep into a season without a loss, including Indianapolis each of the last two years, but none has outscored opponents by as many points (208) as the Patriots have during those 10 games since the 1962 Green Bay Packers.
New England's seeming invincibility has resulted in talk of it becoming the first team to go unbeaten since the 1972 Dolphins, who were coached by Shula.
"It'll mean something if we get there," Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "For right now, we're worried about Buffalo."
Brady is 12-1 against the Bills, and the Patriots' winning streak against Buffalo is at eight games. New England would have the longest active run for one team against another with a victory Sunday.
A win would also reduce the Patriots' magic number for clinching a fifth straight AFC East title to one with six games to play.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press