The Gloves are off…

Thursday and still no big bulletin board material or controversy surrounding the game to grab on to? It’s apparent the Steelers have learned lessons from ’01, and are saying all the right things this week. The Patriots of course, almost never give the opposition anything. Paul Kenyon picks up on this theme, noting that the Steelers are relishing their underdog role and praising the Patriots up and down. Mike Reiss says that we will hear a lot of “keys” to the game in the coming days, but it will all really come down to the fundamentals and execution. Jim Fennell of the Union Leader says that Bill Belichick has his concerns about the Steelers, but he doesn’t have to worry about his own team buying into what he has to say. Michael Felger says that stopping Jerome Bettis and the Steelers running game should be the Patriots number one target. Nick Cafardo talks to Keith Traylor, Ty Warren and others about what life in the trenches is going to be like on Sunday and what it’s going to take to stop the Steelers running attack. Alan Greenberg looks at what the Patriots offensive line will be facing from the league’s top rated defense.

Karen Guregian says that Tom Brady isn’t worried about playing in Heinz field despite a rough personal history in his two visits there. He also talks about Ben Roethlisberger and what he has accomplished this season compared to what Brady himself did in ’01. Not surprisingly, Brady gives the edge to the Steelers QB. Nick Cafardo catches up with injured cornerback Ty Law, a Pittsburgh native, who is down there at his mother’s house now after ligament surgery, but will be rooting hard for his Patriots teammates. Jonathan Comey notes that in many ways the Patriots and Steelers present mirror images of each other. Michael Parente says that the Patriots have learned from their Halloween nightmare in Pittsburgh.

Steve Buckley (subscription only) looks at the attention that Tedy Bruschi is now getting nationally, and how the Patriots linebacker is indifferent to it all, preferring to just remain another member of the team. Steve Conroy has a look at Adam Vinatieri, who isn’t concerned about having to kick outdoors in the wind and elements. Chris Kennedy looks at Josh Miller, going back to Pittsburgh this weekend. Tom E Curran notes that the signs point to Richard Seymour not playing again this weekend. Christopher Price looks at the importance of slowing the Bus. Mark Farinella looks at the troubles of former Patriot Chris Sullivan. Glen Farley looks at Bill Belichick changing gears from the Colts to the Steelers. Eric McHugh says the clock is ticking for Ben Roethlisberger. Matt Jenkins looks at former BC quarterback Brian St. Pierre, who is playing the role of Tom Brady in Steelers practice this week.

Felger’s notebook says that it is a tough call to say if Richard Seymour will play on Sunday, but the signs point against it. Cafardo’s notebook looks at the similarities between Brady in ’01 and Roethlisberger this year. Greenberg’s notebook looks at Seymour, Hines Ward and Josh Miller. Kennedy’s notebook looks at the Steelers’ zone blitz. Curran’s notebook addresses the empty bulletin boards. Comey’s notebook looks at Mike Vrabel recalling his time with the Steelers, which included a huge play against the Patriots.

Steelers Articles From Here

Tom E Curran looks at Ben Roethlisberger and the confidence his teammates have in him. George Kimball (subscription only) says that Roethlisberger’s thumb is fine and the interceptions he threw against the Jets were errors, not the result of injury. Mark Blaudschun has the Steelers saying the right things and paying their respects to the Patriots. Kevin Paul Dupont has the subject we’re all breathlessly waiting to have addressed…will Roethlisberger wear a glove, or not? Kimball’s notebook has Roethlisberger impressed by what the Patriots defense was able to do against the Colts. Blaudschun’s notebook has the Steelers acknowledging that the presence of Corey Dillon will likely make a difference in this game. Kenyon’s notebook has Steelers’ kicker Jeff Reed learning from Adam Vinatieri.

Pittsburgh Links

Ed Bouchette says Big Ben is dropping the gloves for Sunday. You know the media isn’t getting anything when a QB wearing gloves or not is a big story. Jerry DiPaola says that Roethlisberger accepts full blame for the close call that the Steelers had against the Jets. Bouchette also writes that the Steelers want to prove that their Halloween dismantling of the Patriots was no fluke. On the other hand, Chuck Finder says that the Patriots are determined not to repeat the result of that game. Joe Starkey says that Tom Brady still is on a quest to prove himself each game he plays. Starkey also looks at Bill Belichick being animated for about 45 seconds yesterday. Bob Smizik looks at the media coverage of the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Tom Barnes writes that PA Gov. Ed Rendell is hoping – if not counting on – at least one, PA team making the Super Bowl. Kevin Gorman looks at the Steelers players preparing for Belichick schemes. Bouchette’s notebook has the Steelers preparing to make in-game adjustments. Finder’s notebook looks at the Patriots success in inclement weather. Starkey’s notebook has Josh Miller recalling his time under Bill Cowher.

Celtics Gore Bulls

Peter May and Steve Bulpett report on the Celtics beating the Bulls, who hadn’t lost since the third of January, by the score of 92-83. Carolyn Thornton looks at rookie Al Jefferson putting up 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the win. Marvin Pave has more on the strong outing from Jefferson. Mark Murphy has Tom Gugliotta doing just a little bit of whining about not getting playing time. He understands why he isn’t playing, but he’s not content sitting on the bench. Mike Anthony looks at Bulls rookie Ben Gordon from UConn, who is adjusting to life in the NBA.

Thornton’s notebook looks at Mark Blount putting up a double goose egg last night. 0 points 0 rebounds in 22 minutes. May’s notebook also looks at the statistically unproductive night for the 38 Million dollar center. Mark Murphy also addresses the lost night for Blount. Bulpett’s notebook has Danny Ainge correcting the media in letting them know that players getting kicked out of practice happens more than they know. This is in response to the attention being given the Ricky Davis incident from Sunday.

Patting themselves on the back

With the latest ratings numbers having been released, WEEI finished at the top. Good for them. However, the constant self-congratulatory remarks are tiresome. If a local athlete was constantly promoting themselves, the WEEI hosts would be all over them. However when it comes to themselves, they’re shameless in constantly reminding everyone of their success. While the numbers are undeniable, do you think they just might have something to do with the Red Sox winning the World Series and the continued success of the Patriots? It’s also notable that the success in this ratings period came when many of the regular hosts were off for extended periods during the holidays. Clearly, the teams and not solely the talents of the hosts are responsible for the success of WEEI. The constant pats on the backs among the staff are in poor taste. (Edit 1:50 PM – I’m told that the ratings period ended on Dec 15th, the holidays comment, other than Thanksgiving week, doesn’t really apply)

And why does Lenny Clarke get trotted out on multiple shows during the ratings celebratory periods? Do people really find him funny? How many TV shows has he been through? Good guy? No doubt. Charitable? Absolutely. Worthy of repeat appearances on a sports talk station? No way.

Tonight

TNT has Rockets/Magic at 8:00 and Cavs/Kings at 10:30. ESPN has Iowa/Illinois at 7:00 and ESPN2 has Marquette/DePaul at 9:00.

The Buildup continues…

Despite being the Wednesday before the AFC Championship game, articles are surprisingly few in the papers today. I expect that to change over the next couple days, but for now, it’s the calm before the storm…in print anyway. Some of the articles below are from yesterday’s afternoon papers. Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider has legendary Steelers coach talking favorably about the current Patriots. Apparently unable as of yet to get a hold of Curt Schilling, (he promised in his mailbag he was going to pursue the Schilling as a Steelers fan angle this week) Nick Cafardo settles for another of his favorite topics, field conditions. He looks at whether Heinz field will cause problems for the Patriots or not. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots being installed as three point favorites despite playing on the road against the 16-1 Steelers. Chris Kennedy looks at the decided lack of trash talk between the teams thus far. Mike Reiss looks at what is likely the key to the game for the Patriots – stopping the run.


Dan Shaughnessy writes a nice piece today on the premise that the Patriots have proven themselves to be a model organization, one that even youth coaches want to emulate. Jonathan Comey looks at what many people perceive to be the edge that puts the Patriots over the top – Belichick. Michael Parente writes that Sunday will be the Patriots toughest and most physical challenge of the season. Karen Guregian says that all of a sudden the prospect of a future without Ty Law doesn’t seem all that daunting to the Patriots and their fans, thanks to the emergence of Randall Gay and Asante Samuel. Jim Donaldson looks at the impact that former UMass coach Mark Whipple has had on Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger as his position coach. Rich Thompson has a look at Rosevelt Colvin, who is happy to have a role in this playoff run, even if it is still limited due to the lingering effects of his injury. Eric McHugh says that the Patriots aren’t getting ahead of themselves this week. Hector Longo has a look at the Patriots unsung heroes coming through again. Michael Felger looks at how Jarvis Green helped to fill the void left by the absence of Richard Seymour on Sunday. Cafardo’s notebook has the 49ers calling the team for advice on building an organization – who would’ve imagined that would ever be case 15 years ago. Parente’s notebook looks at the Patriots role as favorites this weekend.

Dennis and Callahan had Mark Schlereth from ESPN on this morning to discuss his prediction that Tom Brady was going to choke against the Colts. Schlereth good naturedly ate crow and even took at couple calls from Patriots fans. However, it doesn’t really take away from the fact that his prediction was admittedly based on nothing more than feeling that the numbers had to “catch up” with Brady sooner or later. In contrast to last week’s media fascination with the “unstoppable” Colts offense, this week the trend seems to have swung too far in the opposite direction, something the media is prone to do. It seems the majority of the “experts” are now picking the Patriots, and seemingly ignoring the Steelers, all based on one game. Still no real insightful analysis to be found for the most part.

From the Steel City

Ed Bouchette looks at Jerome Bettis, who made many sacrifices to remain with the Steelers this season and get a shot at the Super Bowl which has eluded him thus far in his career. Jerry DiPaola has Merril Hoge saying that the Steelers are more physical than the Patriots and that that is something that Bill Belichick can’t scheme for. Chuck Finder looks at how the Patriot players have bought into the coaching of Belichick and his staff. Joe Starkey looks at how these are the glory days for New England sports fans. He also looks at Pittsburgh native Scott Zolak, who is enjoying his life in the Boston area. Bouchette’s notebook says the weather will be cold on Sunday. DiPaola’s notebook looks at the short Steelers’ injury report and that Bettis will likely get the start on Sunday. Finder’s Patriots notebook looks at Josh Miller’s return to the Steel City.

Celtics/Bulls Tonight

Steve Bulpett looks at how Raef LaFrentz is thrilled to have been healthy this season and able to contribute to the club. Mike Fine looks at how Doc Rivers and the Celtics have been attempting to learn from the Patriots. Shira Springer looks at the improvement in the Chicago Bulls, who have won seven in a row and hit the FleetCenter tonight. Bulpett’s notebook says Paul Pierce hasn’t seen the need to talk to Ricky Davis about the incident in practice from Sunday.

Who’s on First

Chris Snow gives some good analysis on what is probably the last major decision the Red Sox have to make this offseason – who to keep, Kevin Millar or Doug Mientkiewicz. Gordon Edes looks at Roger Clemens asking for 22 Million dollars in arbitration from the Astros. Jeff Horrigan, David Heuschkel and Snow look at Bronson Arroyo and Mark Bellhorn.

Russ Conway looks at today’s last ditch effort to save the NHL season.

FSN has Celtics/Bulls at 7:00. ESPN has Duke/Miami at 8:30 and Timberwolves/Lakers at 10:30. ESPN2 has Charlotte/Cincinnati at 7:00.

Slow Burn to Sunday

It’s Patriots/Steelers for the AFC Championship this Sunday, but there is still some looking back at Sunday to do. Kevin Mannix and Michael Parente file their report cards on the game and as you would expect are generally positive about the results. Mannix does hand out two “C’s” – to quarterback Tom Brady and his receivers. This despite the fact that 10 different receivers caught passes in the game. Mannix knocks them for not getting a lot of yards per catch. Bill Reynolds says Peyton and the Colts never quite got out of the stable on Sunday. Tom Curran looks at three key plays that changed the game on Sunday. Lenny Megliola says hey, maybe Bill Belichick isn’t so boring and dull after all. Some of us never thought he was.

Michael Felger says the AFC Championship will be different from last week in that this time, the opponent will hit back. Nick Cafardo adds that the last time these teams met, the Patriots were not only beat, they were beat up. Bob Ryan says that while Bill Belichick may not have been looking specifically forward to a rematch with the Steelers ever since October 31st, the fans, media and the players certainly have been. He praises the coach, which may get him in hot water with his bosses at the Globe. Alan Greenberg has Bill Belichick denying that he is out for revenge this Sunday. The coach claims never to have looked that far ahead. Michael Parente says there will be many challenges for the Patriots this Sunday, not the least of which will be dealing with how physical the Steelers will be. Chris Kennedy writes that Sunday will be a matchup of strength vs strength. Jon Couture asserts that the game will be a serious battle. Christopher Price also looks ahead to Patriots/Steelers. Tom Curran looks back at 15 of the top games in the Belichick/Brady era of the Patriots.

Felger’s notebook says that the Patriots are hungry for another title, has some news on Ty Law possibly being unhappy with his diagnosis, and Belichick saying that the coaches are starting out a little behind in their game planning for the Steelers. Cafardo’s notebook has a familiar theme saying that Sunday’s win no doubt solidified Romeo Crennel’s status as a hot coaching commodity. He also does the usual speculation about replacement candidates. Parente’s notebook says that it shouldn’t be any surprise that Tedy Bruschi came up front and center in Sunday’s win over the Colts. Kennedy’s notebook looks at the struggles the Steelers have had in home AFC Title games.

View From Pittsburgh

Jerry DiPaola says that Bill Belichick is eager for a second chance at the Steelers. Ed Bouchette says that his teammates expect Ben Roethlisberger to fully rebound from his shaky game against the Jets. Chuck Finder says a healthy Corey Dillon could be the difference in this rematch. Mike Prisuta says that the Steelers hope that their special teams breakdown on Santana Moss’ punt return for a TD was a one-time thing. Bouchette’s notebook says that the Steelers are accepting their underdog role. DiPaola’s notebook says that the Steelers aren’t going to urge Roethlisberger to lose the gloves he wore on Saturday. Finder’s Patriots notebook has Belichick heaping praise on the Steelers.

Ricky – don’t hate him

Peter May and Mark Murphy look at Ricky Davis who was back at practice after being tossed out on Sunday after a “colorfully worded outburst” in front of high school kids. All agree that this incident was not a big deal, and is behind them. All except for Glenn Ordway and the like. The only mention of the Celtics in weeks on the Big Show was yesterday in reference to the Davis situation and Ordway, Smerlas and company castigated Davis. They said he is what is wrong with the Celtics and how opposite from the Patriots that team is. Ordway couldn’t be more wrong about this situation. He used to be in touch with the NBA, but no longer. If he had watched more than a couple minutes of each Celtics game this season he would see that Davis has emerged as arguably the heart and soul of the Celtics. He’s come off the bench without complaint, played hard every minute he’s out there, worked on defense, and done everything they’ve asked him to do. However, Glenn and many other middle aged white men look at Davis and see the cornrows and tattoos and recall a missed dunk from earlier in the season and base their whole opinion on that. Similarly Glenn looks at Paul Pierce and Mark Blount and their clean cut appearance and pronounces them the “good guys” when in reality, they are the ones that have been loafing on the court, being benched for doing so and openly whining and complaining about the coaching staff. May’s notebook says that even at two games under .500 the Celtics could do no worse than pull even for the Atlantic Division lead with the win against the Bulls tomorrow night.

Jeff Horrigan reports on the arbitration situations for Bronson Arroyo and Mark Bellhorn. Joe Sullivan of the Union Leader gives thumbs down to books by Jerry Remy and Joe Castiglione.

John Molori has praise for Dale & Neumy and knocks Boomer Esiason in this week’s edition of Media Blitz. Bill Griffith knocks CBS for coming back late from commercial and missing the Tom Brady TD that sealed the game for the Patriots.

NESN has game two of the 1986 World Series at 7:00. ESPN has Purdue/Michigan State at 7:00 and Mississippi State/Alabama at 9:00. ESPN2 has Wake Forest/Florida State at 7:00.

Squib Kicks

An MLK Day edition of BSMW. I took the opportunity to get some sleep this morning. A bit of a changeup today, as I’m sure most of you have read the stories by now. If not, click on the “Newspaper Sports Sections” link to the left and you can browse all the local papers and read their take on things.

Don’t forget to check out the BSMW Rear View column by Scott A Benson.

Interns running the asylum?

Last night I mentioned the incident where Borges was shown picking the Patriots in the Globe on Friday and the Colts Sunday and saying on the air that he didn’t make the pick that was in his name on Friday. In regards to those NFL picks made by the Globe writers, a former Globe employee emailed me to tell me how the process actually works.

Anyway, the picks are due by Thursday morning, they put together those football pages first thing that night because there's no deadline stories. If the picks are not in, a copy editor will make them. For years, Will McDonough's picks were made by a copy editor. I don't want to say his name because he's a good guy, but it always bothered me because people base their bets on these picks and McDonough was so well-respected football-wise. Borges and Cafardo sent them in sometimes, but forget many others, especially Borges. Sometimes, Joe Sullivan would make Borges' picks, sometimes a copy editor would and a few times, even a co-op or intern would. It's sad really because people take their picks seriously. Borges once said in the office that he barely looks at anything when he does make the picks.

So Borges wasn't lying when he said he didn't pick the Pats. I agree with you, though, that it's unethical that the Globe allows that. Especially the same paper that started World War 3 over the Boston City League reporting incorrect scores five or six years ago to keep from embarrassing losing teams. (example, Dorchester loses to English, 99-24 in hoops and they report the score, 66-40, or something.)

Kind of two-sided.

That’s pretty interesting, no? Yes, it’s a minor thing, the picking of sporting events…but where else are they doing things like this? Do they do it in the news section? Movie reviews? Is this just the tip of the iceberg?

Pathetic Prognosticators, take II

It seems that some have taken the comments that I made last night and tried to spin them that I’m mad at anyone who would dare pick against my beloved Patriots…thus trying to make me into just another Yahoo fan…

Let me state this clearly. I have no problems with people who pick against the home team. In fact, I think this Sunday’s game will present many problems for the Patriots and expect many Steelers predictions. My problem is with the so-called experts who get paid big bucks to make picks and who instead of giving any kind of thoughtful, reasoned out analysis, instead try to be outrageous, bring attention to themselves, go with the crowd, or bring mindless statements to the table. (“Peyton Manning is unstoppable.” or “This is Peyton’s year.”) These are the people that are worthy of contempt. Especially during the playoffs when there are no longer 32 teams to cover, but instead 12, 8, 4, or 2. They can spend more time on each time and come up with better analysis. But they don’t.

FOX lowers the bar again

Reader Steve from Maine has the following to say about Joe Buck and the FOX network’s treatment of Randy Moss:

Let me start out by saying that from what I

Postgame thoughts…

No truth to the rumor that Ron Borges was led from Gillette Stadium in a straightjacket following the Patriots 20-3 domination of the greatest offense of all time. Borges, who was last heard on the WBCN pregame show cackling about knowing all week that Richard Seymour wouldn’t play and picking the Colts, was no doubt in a foul mood during and following the game. What the Boston sports fan needs is a “Borges-cam” to follow him around during the game and see the slow burn of insanity as he is proven a dolt once again. That would be must-see-TV. I half expected to see Borges streak across the field in the middle of the game trying to break up a Tom Brady pass while screaming “NOOOOOOOO!”

Seriously though, what this should’ve proven once and for all is that 90% of the so-called football “experts” out there have absolutely no clue about the game. I’m not really talking that much locally here as I am on a national level. All the focus was misplaced, the “experts” talked about the Patriots not having Ty Law, not having Tyrone Poole and possibly not having Richard Seymour. They insisted there was no way that that the Patriots defense could hold the Colts. It seemed that all other aspects of the game were ignored. Toughness was ignored. Coaching was largely ignored. They were blinded by the gaudiness of the statistics of the Colts. “Expert” after “Expert” on ESPN and the other networks picked the Colts. Surprisingly, the FOX pregame show was the one that seemed to favor the Patriots the most. There were a few exceptions otherwise, Boomer Esiason picked the Patriots on CBS, and was mocked by Shannon Sharpe, but got his revenge on the postgame.

The CBS postgame contained a couple moments of tension between the hosts. ProFootballTalk.com has some of the details, but there was also a moment where Boomer said that it is clear that “Peyton Manning is the Dan Marino of this generation” and will never win a Super Bowl while Tom Brady is the Joe Montana. Marino’s face was flush as he retorted “I made it to a Super Bowl”.

NFL Network had the best of the post game shows, even better than Patriots Fifth Quarter on UPN38. A highlight of the latter show was Tedy Bruschi knocking over Steve Burton with a playful shoulder during an interview. On NFL network, Terrell Davis explained why Willie McGinest causes such problems for the Colts. He’s a “tweener” who sometimes lines up down and then shifts, which causes the running back or offensive lineman to shift their focus and assignment. The opponent mentally files that McGinest is lined up one way and that they need to play it that way, then after the shift, their assignment is different, but they have already put it in their head about what they need to do.

Postgame stuff aside, it needs to be restated how dreadful the prognosticators and pregame analysis by the majority of the talking heads out there is. Football fans deserve better. These “experts” are highly paid to do their jobs, and yet it seems that they cannot get past the most basic of mental traps. They’re seduced by the season of an Indianapolis Colts team, and blinded to the fact that despite the numbers and even the record, that is a seriously flawed and soft football team. They see injuries to a Patriots secondary and write the team off, despite the fact that the team has played with the injuries for two months. They say it is Peyton Manning’s “time” to win and beat the Patriots, as if it were something that can be attained just by showing up. I am disgusted by the sheer ignorance of so many of the people that we rely on to enlighten us about these games.

I’m not saying these people are ignorant merely because they picked the Colts. The Colts were capable of winning this game. I’m annoyed at the reasons these “experts” gave for why the Colts were going to ride roughshod over the Patriots. Many people are going to pick the Steelers this week, and that’s fine. Give us some real reasons about why the Steelers are the superior team and why they will cause the Patriots problems or vice versa.

One last Borges item. Friday in the Globe he picks the Patriots. Today in the Globe he picks the Colts. On Friday on WWZN he claimed that the pick under his name in the paper that day was not his, that he was in fact picking the Colts. He claimed that the paper made the pick for him. He’s made this claim before, and I think perhaps another writer has as well. This is disturbing on a number of levels. Is the Globe making up the picks of their writers? If this is true, what else are they making up? Second, if that isn’t true, how can a writer be allowed to play both sides in this fashion? Who’s in charge over there?

It’s ridiculous.

Feel like contacting some of the local sports media to let them know how you feel? This BSMW Contact page has the address of many sports media members around Boston.

It is so on!

Sunday links by ben ([email protected])

Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning will remember the date, Sunday, January 16, 2005, for a long time. It will be the day each turned the corner in their efforts to put both the critics and their demons behind them. Or today will sear an image of failure further into the hearts of minds of football fans across the country. It will be either game 7 of the 2003 ALCS or game 7 of 2004.

Statistics that matter are on the side of the Patriots. After yesterday

David vs. Goliath

Saturday links by Rich ([email protected])

Pats-Colts
With so much media coverage of this game over the past 2 weeks (the press largely ignored the possibility that Denver could beat Indianapolis, and in retrospect wisely so), it is increasingly difficult to come up with a fresh angle on it. The local media gives it their best today, and below is a buffet of stories to choose from if you are looking for more info on what is unquestionably the NFL

Finally Friday

Ron Borges has a full matchup comparison of the Colts and Patriots in today’s Globe. In his breakdown, he gives four matchup edges to the Patriots and three to the Colts, calling the coaching and secondary matchups even. After saying Belichick should’ve been named coach of the year, he says:

Dungy led the Buccaneers for six years, building a team that reached the NFC Championship game and fundamentally the team that won the Super Bowl the year after his departure.

Did Dungy “build” that team, or was it Buccaneers GM Rich McKay? And to praise Dungy for a team that won the Super Bowl after he was fired sure seems like reaching to praise Dungy and put him on the same level as Belichick. Besides, having failed to win it all with the Bucs and then having John Gruden come in and win the Super Bowl with essentially the same cast doesn’t speak well for Dungy. By the way Ron, the game isn’t tonight. (Read the Colts special teams section.) Doesn’t anyone check these things? In another note, Ron picks the Patriots in the Globe Staff Picks, but on WWZN this afternoon he says that isn’t his pick, someone did it for him, and that he’s picking the Colts. It’s probably more like if the Patriots win, he can says “I picked them…look in the paper.” Borges also has an article on MSNBC looking at the game and praising Belichick. Michael Felger and Glen Farley look at the challenge facing the Patriots corners. Jeff Jacobs has a really good column on Rodney Harrison, who is planning on bringing the fog Sunday. Tom E Curran has a further look at how the Patriots plan to attack Manning. One problem with Curran’s piece, he has him listed as a Heisman trophy winner. Manning never won that award, only finishing as high as second. Nick Cafardo talks to Pete Carroll among others about how the best way to defend Manning and the Colts. Alan Greenberg has a look at Adam Vinatieri’s postseason record.

Gerry Callahan (subscription only) looks at Tom Brady’s record of coming up big in big games. He ends the column by predicting a 35-34 Patriots win. Amalie Benjamin has a look at special teams Pro Bowler Larry Izzo. Fluto Shinzawa looks at Je’Rod Cherry and a couple other players who were on and off the Patriots roster over the course of the season. Kevin Paul Dupont cranks out 3,150 words on Stephen Neal. Christopher Price says the playoffs are a whole different game for Bill Belichick and his crew. Glen Farley looks at how the field will be wet and cold on Sunday and how that factors into the game. Mike Reiss looks at the relationship between Belichick and BC coach Tom O’Brien and how the Colts factor into that. Chris Kennedy looks at how the Patriots feel at home in Gillette, regardless of the weather and field conditions. Steve Buckley (subscription only) looks at what might be going on in Corey Dillon’s head this week, as the Patriots running back has really not been heard from during this week prior to his first ever playoff game.

Felger’s notebook looks at punter Josh Miller. The Projo notebook looks at how new Pats CB Hank Poteat is adapting to his new club. Ian M Clark’s notebook looks at Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri and how they’re no slouches despite the attention given to Peyton Manning and Mike Vanderjagt. Greenberg’s notebook has a look at Antwan Harris, back in the fold. Jonathan Comey has a notebook style column which starts with a look at pranks in the Patriot locker room. Cafardo’s notebook has the Gillette Stadium playing surface getting the OK from the league. Cafardo’s Mailbag from late yesterday afternoon has a few interesting takes from the Globe writer, as he comments on media access to assistant coaches, updates on injuries and other hotbutton topics. Kennedy’s notebook has Troy Brown expecting to be tested on Sunday as a cornerback.

Colts Articles

Kevin Paul Dupont has a feature style piece on Peyton Manning. George Kimball (subscription only) writes that the Colts aren’t paying much attention to the potential field conditions, saying that the Patriots will have to play on the same field. Shalise Manza Young has a look at the Colts defense and what challenges they will provide to the Patriot offense. Mark Blaudschun looks at Tony Dungy hoping to finally break through and get a Super Bowl appearance this year. Hector Longo has a piece on Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Tom King says Peyton Manning isn’t worried about going into Foxboro to face the Patriots, despite his lack of success against him. Blaudschun’s notebook has the Colts downplaying the field and weather conditions at Gillette.

From the Indy Star

Phil Richards says that the Patriots are the Colts nemesis, having beaten them 13 out of 15 times. He says though, that this is a different Colts team. He has a sidebar on the article listing six of the times in history a team had to break through and beat their nemesis, including the Red Sox beating the Yankees. He also lists five reasons the Colts can beat the Patriots. Bob Kravitz says the Colts cannot complain about the field at Gillette. The Patriots earned home field advantage. If the Colts want to play at home in the playoffs, they need to win the homefield race.

Baseball Writers Dinner/New Steroid Policy

Dan Shaughnessy looks at the star of the Baseball Writers dinner last night – the World Series Trophy. Joe McDonald and David Heuschkel talk to Terry Francona and Tony Larussa about the World Series and looking ahead to next season. Gordon Edes looks at what Marvin Miller has to say about the state of the game and steroid use. Chris Snow’s notebook has an update on Curt Schilling, while the Herald notebook says Schilling is still shooting to be ready for opening day. McDonald’s notebook has more on the steroid policy and a list of honorees from last night. Nick Tavares grades offseason acquisitions.

Chris Snow, Paul Doyle and Jeff Horrigan report on the new steroid testing policy adopted by MLB. Tony Massarotti says the new policy was sorely needed. Michael Silverman says the policy received a mixed reaction last night.

Celtics/Hawks tonight

Mark Murphy looks at Atlanta Hawks owner Steve Belkin, a Bostonian who has wanted to own an NBA franchise for years. Marvin Pave looks at adjustments the Celtics are trying to make in an effort to be more consistent. Murphy’s notebook looks at the Celtics pretty much keeping pace in the Atlantic Division despite their struggles.

Media Stuff
Paul Kenyon has a piece on Bryan Morry, the editor of Patriots Football Weekly about what it is like to work for the Krafts and Patriots organization. David Scott has a Friday edition of Scott’s Shots. In the Globe, Bill Griffith looks at Chris Collins remaining at NECN and being named Primary sports anchor for the station. Later on in the piece he has some harsh words for Duke Castiglione and his actions twice this week involving Randy Johnson. He also has a notebook looking at NFL coverage and Joe Buck getting knocked by the owner of the Vikings. Andrew Neff has a look at a Brunswick native who plays the Johnny Damon character in the movie “Fever Pitch”.

What’s on

FSN has Celtics/Hawks at 7:30. ESPN has Timberwolves/Nuggets at 10:30. ESPN2 has Mavericks/Spurs at 8:00.

Field of….dreams?

I ask again, is it Sunday yet?

The condition of the Gillette Stadium playing field is one of the topics for debate today. Michael Felger looks at the Patriots leaving the field open and exposed to the varying and wet elements of this week. Alan Greenberg also reports on the playing surface, which should be a cold, muddy slop by kickoff time on Sunday. Gerry Callahan on WEEI this morning labels the field conditions “cheating” by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Another big concern and topic of conversation is the playing status of Richard Seymour. It seems that more and more media types are leaning towards the idea that the big defensive lineman will not be ready to play on Sunday. Nick Cafardo writes that whether Seymour plays or not, the Patriots need to be able to stop the running attack of the Colts. Tom E Curran looks at the added pressure on the rest of the defensive line if Seymour is unable to play. Lenny Megliola looks at the Patriots crew of veteran linebackers and the impact that they will have in the game on Sunday. This is a tight knit crew who support and respect each other’s roles and value to the team.

Jackie MacMullan has a piece on punter Josh Miller, who has been a popular addition to the Patriots clubhouse. Miller is friends with the man he replaced, Ken Walter, who even gave him advice during this season on kicking at Gillette. Bill Reynolds writes about Bill Belichick, saying that many do not see his brilliance because he says the same thing each week in his press conferences. I disagree, and say that Belichick usually responds the same way to the same questions that are asked each week. Ask him to talk about a particular play, a philosophy of football or player from the past, and you will get an answer that shows you just how much this guy knows about football and the NFL. Chris Kennedy says that every champion needs a foil, and the Colts provide a perfect one for the Patriots. Eric McHugh notes that with all the attention being given to the Colts offense, the explosiveness of the Patriots offense is being somewhat overlooked. Tom King says that you can’t really compare Patriots defenses across years, even from last year to this year. Brian Fleming looks at Willie McGinest, who has broken the hearts of the Colts and their fans on more than one occasion. Steve Buckley (subscription only) says that both teams can claim to be treated unfairly and “dissed” by the media, it’s all how you look at it. Buckley teased this column during his Big Show appearance yesterday. Jim Donaldson asserts that Mike Vanderjagt’s comments from the other day were pretty much right on the mark, but that Patriots fans can’t handle that fact.

Cafardo’s notebook looks at offseason surgery in store for Ty Law. Felger’s notebook says that outside of Law and Tyrone Poole, the Patriots secondary is as healthy as it has been in some time. Curran’s notebook has more on the field conditions at Gillette. Greenberg’s notebook looks at Seymour’s chances of playing Sunday. Kennedy’s notebook has Tony Dungy saying that Rodney Harrison could’ve been a strong candidate for league MVP.

Colts Stories

George Kimball looks at Peyton Manning seeking that elusive first win at Foxboro, and paying proper respect to the Patriot defense. John Altavilla also looks at Manning attempting to end his 0-6 streak in New England. Buddy Thomas continues his Manning fan-boy routine, continuing his act of trying to exult Manning while putting down Tom Brady at the same time. Mark Blaudschun looks at the understated importance of Edgerrin James to the Colts offense. Glen Farley believes that THIS time is the Colts time. Kimball’s notebook looks at the Colts likely playing without Robert Mathis this Sunday. Blaudschun’s notebook looks at the Colts trying to get back to work after distancing themselves from Mike Vanderjagt’s remarks.

From the Indy Star

Phil Richards looks at two longtime Colts assistants who are widely respected around the league, offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Phillip B Wilson looks at Rodney Harrison embracing his reputation, but not the fines he gets for it. The Colts notebook says that the team is not distracted by Vanderjagt’s comments, and says that Robert Mathis is definitely out this Sunday. The Patriots notebook says the team is very careful not to put any labels on opponents that could be considered degrading to the other team.

Another road loss for the Celtics

Peter May and Mark Murphy report on the Celtics losing once again on the road, this time to the Raptors. Morris Peterson put up 37 on the green, who surrendered over 100 points for the 24th time this season. The message sent by coach Doc Rivers over the weekend is still being felt, Jim Fenton has a look at the effects of the move by the coach. Murphy says that Pierce and Rivers are fine, and notes Pierce’s playful and relaxed attitude at practice yesterday. May’s notebook looks at former Celtic Eric Williams getting used to another NBA city. Murphy’s notebook has a similar theme.

Baseball Misc

Tony Massarotti looks at Derek Lowe being introduced as a Dodger. Chris Snow has a look at plans to expand City of Palms Park. Jeff Jacobs says the Yankees made a mistake by not clearing room on their payroll for Carlos Beltran.

What’s on
NESN has game 7 of the 1975 World Series at 7:00. TNT has Nets/Rockets at 8:00 and Cavs/Lakers at 10:30. ESPN debuts “Tilt” tonight at 9:00, Matthew Gilbert has a preview of ESPN’s second foray into scripted television. ESPN also has Duke/NC State at 7:00. ESPN2 has Marquette/Memphis at 9:00.

Tick…Tick…Tick…

Um, is it Sunday yet? The anticipation and hype continues as we get closer to Sunday and the rematch of the Colts and Patriots. There is still a lot of concern out there, and Gerry Callahan is still in fear of the “greatest offense of all time.” However the following exchange this morning seemed to deflate Gerry a bit:

Caller: Who has the better offense in these weather conditions?
D&C: Patriots
Caller: Who has the better quarterback to execute that offense?
D&C: Patriots
Caller: Who has the better defense?
D&C: Patriots
Caller: Who has the better kicker for outdoors, the last game was decided by three points
D&C: Patriots
Caller:Who has the better coach?
D&C: Patriots
Caller: Thanks guys. *click*

There was a moment of silence, followed by Callahan asserting that the Colts have a better defensive backfield.

While Peyton Manning gets the regular season awards and accolades, some might think that Tom Brady could feel overshadowed. Nick Cafardo and Michael Felger look at the Patriots quarterback, who doesn’t feel that way at all, being very satisfied with the attention and success he and his team has had the last three years. Dan Shaughnessy compares Manning to Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Belichick to Red Auerbach in a column that though we all know exactly what it says without reading it, it’s still pretty fun to read. Just one note…how does Dan figure that Peyton can take credit for 6,475 yards of total offense? He’s allowed to take credit for all the rushing yards too? His numbers are impressive enough without doing that…

Tom E Curran says that the Patriots aren’t going to merely be content sitting on the ball and trying to keep it away from the Colts offense. Mike Reiss says the Patriots will attempt to play a complete game, using all three aspects of football to beat the Colts – offense, defense and special teams. Chris Kennedy notes that it is important that the Patriots get out to an early lead. Michael Gee (subscription only) writes that this game may not be as we all expect, it could be the Patriots who are slinging the ball around the field, and he notes that if the Colts end up running the ball 42 as times they did in the season open, they will win the game. Alan Greenberg looks at the much maligned Colt defense, which he says is getting better.

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider is interesting because of the information he provides about the officiating crew assigned to the game Sunday. The crew selected is not one known for throwing a lot of flags, a choice that he says will likely outrage the Colts. He also looks at Belichick’s success against Manning, and the theory that the Pats desperately need Richard Seymour on the field Sunday, a theory he calls “overrated”. Christopher L Gaspar has a piece on Jarvis Green, who had three sacks in the AFC Title game last year, and could have a big role this weekend too. Michael Parente has Rodney Harrison responding to the comments by Mike Vanderjagt. George Kimball (subscription only) says that Vanderjagt’s comments might actually have merit, and that the Colts could very well be headed to the AFC Championship game. Chris Kennedy has more on Vanderjagt. Hector Longo has a look at Bethel Johnson this season and wonders if the return man can have a big impact on this game. Jonathan Comey says it’s hard to be a Randy Moss fan these days.

Parente’s notebook looks at what the Patriots concerns over stopping the Colts passing attack. Curran’s notebook, Cafardo’s notebook and Felger’s notebook all have the Patriots dismissing the comments from Mike Vanderjagt.

View from the opposition

Stories from the Indianapolis Star include: Why the Colts (supposedly) can’t win Sunday – Manning struggles in Foxboro and ‘Dome’ teams toast in cold of January, as well as Vanderjagt takes it 1 small step too far. There is also a Colts notebook and a Patriots notebook.

Celtics in Toronto, Pierce unhappy

The Celtics will be in Toronto tonight, and Peter May and Steve Bulpett write about the new-look Raptors, who are no longer built around Air Canada. The guys on the BSMW Full Court Press take a look at the state of the Celtics now that we’re into the new year. Mike Fine says that Doc Rivers has done a fine job this season, and likes his my-way-or-the-highway approach. Michael Muldoon has a look back at the benching in Chicago and how it has affected the team. Bulpett’s notebook looks at Paul Pierce whining about the benching and generally behaving like Nomar Garciaparra did in his last year here.

See ya D-Lowe, Hello Randy and Carlos

David Heuschkel has a final look at Derek Lowe as the right hander signs with the Dodgers, Heuschkel notes what the “big goofball” accomplished here in Boston and that he went out a champion. Chris Snow and Mike Shalin look at the Yankees and Mets rolling out their new superstar additions. Shalin also has Randy Johnson looking forward to participating in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry.

What’s on

FSN has Celtics/Raptors at 7:00. NESN is playing game six of the 1975 World Series at 7:00. ESPN has Georgia Tech/North Carolina at 7:00 and Rockets/Mavericks at 9:00. ESPN2 has Kansas/Iowa State at 8:00 and Texas El-Paso/Nevada at 10:00.