The following are excerpts from “Underdogs? No respect? That’s the Patriots’ story and they’re sticking to it” at You can view the full article here.

Nobody wants to be Goliath anymore. Everybody wants to be David, the scrappy, little slingshot-toting, 6½-point underdog.

Even the NFL’s ultimate Goliath, the big, bad, fee-fi-fo-fum Patriots, who are making their ninth Super Bowl appearance in the last 18 years, have spent the last few weeks trying to convince everyone that they’re The Little Engine That Could.

The beauty of being the underdog, according to sports psychologists, is that no one expects you to win, which means you’re dealing with less pressure. And less pressure often translates to better performance.

Justin Anderson is the director and founder of Minneapolis-based Premier Sports Psychology. A former college quarterback, he works with professional athletes in every major sport. He said high expectations often cause even elite athletes to play a little tight.

“We know from a performance standpoint, when we play tight, we’re just a fraction of a second off in our timing,’’ he said. “That could be the difference between breaking up a play or giving up a touchdown catch. The difference is that minute.

“The way expectations tend to work in the mind are twofold. If you don’t have a lot of expectations, you don’t tend to think about the outcome or the result as much. You’re more in the moment.

“The other thing is, with higher expectations, you tend to see a lot of athletes begin to look at passive results a little bit more. Like, are we tracking the way we expected to track? And if we’re not, like, if you have a team that’s supposed to be ahead and they’re not ahead at certain parts of the game, they start to tighten up even more.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, crap. We’re supposed to be blowing this team out,’ or ‘We’re supposed to be ahead and we’re behind.’ Often times, in those case, you don’t handle the adversity as well.”

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