With three games still to play in the regular season, the NFL's top competition has long been decided, claims one NFL insider, speaking today on the condition of anonymity.
"It was decided long before the first snap [of the season]. The NFL needed an undefeated team and they fit the bill.
"Sucks to be the '72 Dolphins," he added, referring to the only team to go undefeated through to win the Superbowl up to this year, "but that record is going away."
The decision is, he claimed, motivated by money.
"With an 18-0 team in the Superbowl, ad prices have quadrupled. It's insane. It's like seven, eight million for thirty seconds. And tickets for the Patriots' last three games are already changing hands for twice the cover price."
Memorabilia sales based around the undefeated season are expected to top $100 billion over the next five years, between the Patriots and the NFL's own merchandising.
For the other contenders it has been a bitter pill to swallow. The Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers - the NFC teams most likely to qualify to lose to the Patriots in the Superbowl - have registered protests, but all in vain.
"It's hard, but they just have to suck it up. The Colts are gonna lose to the Patriots in the AFC championship. Sorry, Payton, sorry Brett, sorry Tony, this is not your year."
The fix hasn't all been plain sailing, however.
"The Eagles and the Ravens gave the NFL a nasty scare. Both teams refused to roll over and play by the script, so the NFL had to create last-minute, game-winning touchdowns in both games. Refusing to review those non-touchdowns gave the Pats the games. Three Ravens guys were even fined for trying to point out the cheating," he said, adding, "the Colts and the Cowboys were beaten by some brilliantly inventive penalty calling by the refereeing squads. The Pats would be 9-4 right now - or worse - if the NFL weren't steering things the way they wanted."
The 19-0 Patriots have to play the Jets and the Dolphins before facing the Giants in their final game, which could be a problem according to our source.
"As of now, the Giants are still looking for a playoff berth, even though they aren't allowed to win the Superbowl. If they go into the 16th game needing to win, the NFL may have to call on the referees in order to make sure that the Pats continue to go undefeated. Watch out for Giants being called for offside when they blink, and looking in the general direction of Randy Moss will be called as pass interference.
"It's not fair, but this is football. It's not a sport, it's a business.
"People would love to see Brett [Favre of the Green Bay Packers] win another [Superbowl] ring before he retires, or see Payton [Manning of the Indianapolis Colts] go back-to-back, or see Tony [Romo of the Dallas Cowboys] win in his first full season as a starter, but it's far more profitable for the Patriots to win the whole ball of wax.
"And next year? Wait and see, but just think how much money could be made off of back-to-back undefeated seasons."
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This article is a parody. It is not intended to be taken seriously. It is, however, intended to express my very real frustration, and the very real frustration of Eagles and Ravens fans, not to mention fans of fair competition in sport, at the way that the Patriots are cheating their way to an undefeated season, and especially at the way that the NFL's referees seem determined to help them. Play fair or don't play at all.