No longer can the New England Patriots ignore it. Beat the New York Giants today and it means more than winning a fourth Super Bowl in seven years. More than reaffirming their dynasty in a sport designed to even the playing field.
It means staking an undeniable claim to that most elusive of titles: greatest ever.
"I think it's the biggest game of all of our lives -- my life, the entire team, our coaches," said Tom Brady, the NFL's Most Valuable Player and the Patriots' poster boy for perfection. "We're going to be remembering this game for as long as we live, win or lose. We're going to have great memories of this experience, or we're going to look at it truly as a missed opportunity. There's not too many teams in the history of the NFL -- none, in fact -- that have been 18-0 going into this game."
The pursuit of an unbeaten season, surpassing the 17-0 by the 1972 Miami Dolphins that stands alone atop the pro football pantheon of unblemished excellence, has turned this Super Bowl into even more of a must-see or must-attend event. Resale tickets for the first title game in Arizona since 1996 are going for thousands of dollars above face value. TV ratings are expected to challenge the highest for any game.
All those elements make this game quite an attraction.
Throw in all the passing records set by Brady, receiving marks established by Randy Moss, the prospect of another shootout with a fearless opponent that has won 10 consecutive road games, and it's enough to make even the casual fan salivate.
Not to mention the whole spying affair after the season opener that effectively cast a shadow on many of Bill Belichick's achievements as Patriots coach.
The Patriots are aware of the historical significance of 19-0. And of 18-1.
"It's the biggest game of my life because it's the Super Bowl," said Moss, who was acquired from Oakland. "With everything we have at stake, as far as hopefully saving the undefeated season, it is right to say that."
Only after winning the AFC title, and in the days leading to America's biggest sports party, did New England players begin mentioning history. Or, as 18-year veteran linebacker Junior Seau put it, "EVER."
"As far as the Super Bowl goes, yeah, this is the Super Bowl, but this is a special Super Bowl," Seau said. "We can hide from the fact that there's going to be another Super Bowl, but this special day, this special week, we can do something that can be here forever."