Room for Improvement

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider examines the Patriots need to stop the running game of the Broncos. They know the schemes, but being able to go out and stop them are another thing. They will need Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi to have big games in order to meet this challenge. He also looks at a couple examples of postseason gamesmanship by the Patriots. Finally, he examines their record since 2001 when facing a team for the second time after losing the first meeting. Alan Greenberg notes that a lot can change in three months, and that is clearly the case with the Patriots, who will field an almost entirely different team in Denver this weekend as compared to the one that played there in October. Chris Kennedy notes that the Patriots know that they still have plenty of room for improvement. Michael Parente says that the Patriots are out for a little revenge against a Broncos club that ran them over three months ago. Howard Ulman of the AP notes that the Patriots are a different squad these days.

Jerome Solomon looks at the Patriots defense which has come together and is standing tall in contrast to the group that was torched by the Broncos in October. John Tomase notes that Richard Seymour has missed the last two games with the Broncos, who should make quite a difference when these two clubs meet this weekend. Tom E Curran argues that going to Denver to play the Broncos is a tougher game than if the Patriots had had to go to Indy to play the Colts this week. His ProJo colleague, Jim Donaldson, takes the opposite view, saying the Patriots caught a break going to Denver instead of Indy. Jonathan Comey agrees that the Broncos are a better match for the Patriots right now.

In an effort to help out the Patriots with their disrespect theme, Gerry Callahan (subscription only) lists out 13 reasons why the Patriots have no chance of beating the Broncos this week. One item he brings up of interest is through Clark Judge of CBSSportsline.com, who notes that Tom Brady had 17 touchdowns and 2 interceptions at home this season, but on the road he has 12 in each category. Quite a difference. Ron Borges says that a big difference for the Broncos this season has been turnovers. Jake Plummer has thrown fewer interceptions, and the team has been forcing more from the opposition. If this trend continues on Saturday night, the Broncos should be in good shape. Tim Weisberg profiles David Givens as a guy who always seems to turn his game up a notch when the playoffs arrive. Nick Cafardo writes that the Patriots didn’t do enough to try to sign John Lynch two years ago, and come Saturday night, he may make them pay for that oversight. He wistfully ponders the idea of a Rodney Harrison/Lynch safety combination in Foxboro. Christopher Price says that it will be a whole new ballgame this time around between the Patriots and Broncos.

Felger notes the New York Jets interest in Eric Mangini as a head coaching candidate. I was listening to WFAN on the way home last night, and they had Jets GM Terry Bradway on the Mike and The Mad Dog program, and he was pretty clear that Mangini was the Jets top choice. He mentioned that they had already talked to the Patriots about getting permission to talk to their defensive coordinator, and that planned on doing so in the next day or two. He mentioned a few other candidates, but the focus was clearly on Mangini. Mike Francesa and Chris Russo.came to the conclusion after the interview that the Jets would be coming up here to basically offer the job to Mangini. They’d like a young, cheaper coach who comes from a strong system. They said if Mangini turned down the job, it would only be because he either didn’t want to have to face Bill Belichick and Nick Saban four times every season, or that Belichick would “poison the waters” and discourage him from coming to the Jets, telling him that there would be others jobs. The hosts argued that the Jets job is a great job, if for no other reason than it is in New York. There are a few articles on Mangini in the New York papers this morning, check them out on the New York Sports Pages.

Solomon’s notebook looks at Richard Seymour as the Patriots only All Pro selection, and also has Benjamin Watson’s college tight ends coach breaking down his five-tool play from Saturday night. Parente’s notebook looks at the big plays from Andre Davis against the Jaguars as a key to that win for the Patriots. Cafardo’s notebook has Rod Smith raving about the Patriots success.

Peter May looks at another crushing loss for the Celtics, this time 104-102 on a Jerry Stackhouse jumper with .01 remaining on the clock. Mark Murphy says that last night’s result was just plain cruel for the Celtics, who played pretty well against the now 26-9 Mavericks. Shalise Manza Young has the Celtics wondering which of the basketball gods they’ve ticked off to continue coming out on the short end of the stick, this time despite the fact as Young notes, they “took care of the ball, they held Dallas to a low field-goal percentage, they rebounded, they distributed the ball and they won the battle down low.” Lenny Megliola also has a look at the crushing loss.

Monique Walker in the Globe looks at Mavs guard Jason Terry who hit seven three pointers last night, helping Dallas to the win. Megliola says that the losing is getting to Paul Pierce, who might be open to the idea of a trade to a team with a better change to win if things don’t turn around pretty quick here in Boston. Murphy’s notebook looks at the return of Tony Allen, and how the second year player has provided a lift to the Celtics. May’s notebook looks at Gerald Green getting settled in the NBDL and what the immediate future holds for the Celtics first round pick. Young’s notebook looks at the hot shooting of Delonte West, which has continued off the West coast swing.

Stephen Harris looks at the return of Joe Thornton to Boston tonight as a member of the San Jose Sharks. Fluto Shinzawa says that Thornton has fit in nicely with his new club, and added a spark to the Sharks. Joe McDonald reports that the day after the Thornton trade, there was nearly a mutiny on the Bruins, as they demanded that Mike O’Connell come down and speak to the team and explain the trade to them. Mick Colageo observes that Thornton hasn’t changed a bit in the weeks since we last saw him.

Steve Conroy reminds us that there are three players on the Bruins who will also be facing their former team for the first time since the deal. Sasha Talcott looks at the struggles that the Bruins has faced business-wise thus far as the NHL attempts its re-entry onto the North American sports scene this season. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reports that Andrew Raycroft hopes to be back in net for the Bruins tonight against the Sharks. This is also the first topic in Conroy’s notebook.

Gordon Edes looks at former Red Sox DH Andre Dawson as another Hall of Fame hopeful. Dawson and Jim Rice will find out their fate today, and Tony Massarotti says Rice should be at or near the top of the list when the results are announced around 2:00 PM today. Rob Bradford talks to Bronson Arroyo, who is a little puzzled by the Red Sox offseason moves, but would like to stick around and see how it all plays out. Steven Krasner had a chat on Projo.com yesterday to talk a little bit about the Red Sox offseason.

NESN has Bruins/Sharks at 7:00. FSN has Celtics/Hawks at 7:00. OLN has Red Wings/Hurricanes at 7:00, UPN38 has NC State/Boston College at 9:00. ESPN has Wisconsin/Minnesota at 7:00 and Vanderbilt/Kentucky at 9:00.

01.09.06 Afternoon

"Bottom line is, you know, I bet he had a lot of his lunch money taken from him in sixth grade. And you know what? And you know what? I

Patriots Moving On

So, Denver it is.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers dispatching the Bengals yesterday afternoon, that sends the Patriots to Denver to take on the Broncos next Saturday night at 8:00. Before we leap into all the Denver analysis, here’s a few items looking back at this past weekend’s Wild Card win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Michael Felger has his report card of the game, and despite only giving up three points, Felger believes the defense is still an area of concern for the Patriots. Christopher Price trots out his 10 Things We Learned from Saturday’s game. Tom E Curran says that there is still plenty of room for improvement for the Patriots. Ian Clark looks at some of the key numbers from the win over the Jaguars. Dan Pires says that the Patriots are clearly coming together and peaking at the right time, becoming once again that dominant force we’ve come to get used to around here.

Jerome Solomon has a look ahead to the Broncos, who will provide the stiffest challenge yet to the Patriots title hopes. John Tomase says that the Patriots will need to play a whole lot better this weekend if they expect to come out with a victory. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots getting a second shot at the Broncos.

Mike Reiss has 10 Things you need to know about the Broncos. Jim McBride in the Globe also has 5 things you need to know about the Broncos. Albert Breer identifies three areas where the Patriots need to improve sharply if they are to have a chance in Denver. Tom E Curran says that despite having a different look now then when they first faced the Broncos, the Patriots still have plenty of obstacles to overcome if they are to have a chance in Denver this weekend. Dan Shaughnessy says that the Patriots have what it takes to win this weekend, but he still manages a Red Sox/Grady Little reference in the column.

Karen Guregian feels that this is a good matchup for the Patriots, who have undergone a transformation on defense since facing the Broncos twelve weeks ago. Steve Britt says that the Patriots are ready to once again head out on the road for a playoff matchup. Barry Wilner of the AP notes that all four playoff games this coming weekend will be rematches of regular season games. Jim Donaldson asserts that no matter what happens the rest of this postseason, we should savor the run that the Patriots have given us, and truly appreciate the brand of football we’ve seen over the last five seasons. I think the point of Steve Buckley’s (subscription only) column today is to tell us that Boston is a two sports town, but that the Patriots serve really only to get us to Red Sox spring training. I think that’s his point, but I can’t really tell, he’s kinda all over the place…

Mike Reiss looks at Andre Davis embracing his new role as a special teams “gunner” on kick coverage. Tomase’s notebook says that the Bronco’s passing attack will present a stiff challenge to the Patriots secondary. Solomon’s notebook tells us that the Patriots will need to be road warriors if they hope to make it to Super Bowl XL.

Nick Cafardo has a look at Jake Plummer and the Broncos. He talks to an unnamed AFC defensive coordinator, who feels that the Broncos have the edge over the Patriots, who will be hard pressed to stop the playmaking ability of Plummer and overcome a great game plan from Mike Shanahan. If I had to guess as to the identity of the unnamed coordinator, my money would be on Jim Schwartz of the Tennessee Titans…always known to be media friendly. Tomase takes a quick look back at that October game between the Patriots and Broncos. You can check out the angles from Denver in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.

Bob Ryan reports on the Steelers defeating the Bengals, sending the Patriots to Denver next weekend. Ryan’s notebook looks at the crown around Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt after the game. It’s a sight you wouldn’t see around here, because as Ryan points out, Bill Belichick doesn’t allow his assistants to talk to the media.

The Patriots performance against Jacksonville seems to have caught the attention of some folks in Indianapolis as well. Bob Kravitz says that New England no longer seems ripe for the picking.

Check out more NFL playoff coverage from the New York Sports Pages and Bay Area Sports Pages.

Michael Silverman notes that the Red Sox seem pretty comfortable with their roster as it is, and in no real hurry to make further changes. He notes that the Red Sox feel that Alex Cora’s infield smarts and feel for the game are better than anyone in baseball. I’m not sure how you make that distinction, but that’s how they feel. Gordon Edes says that the Red Sox will keep an eye out on the Miguel Tejada situation, even though the Orioles shortstop has rescinded his trade request.

Steve Bulpett looks at Doc Rivers trying to cure his Celtics of their turnover woes, which have really sunk Boston this season. Peter May looks back at the loss in Washington Saturday night, focusing much of his attention on Brian Scalabrine, who as summoned into the game with 21.9 seconds left. Tim Weisberg looks at Gerald Green getting sent out to the NBDL to get some game experience. He also has a number of other items from the Celtics and around the league.

Stephen Harris looks at the Bruins as they prepare to welcome Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks into the Garden tomorrow night. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell has Andrew Raycroft attempting to calm reports of a leg injury after having an MRI on his right leg yesterday. Mick Colageo examines the Bruins failure in philosophy this season.

Michael Vega and Steve Bulpett report on Boston College’s 60-58 loss to Georgia Tech last night. Jeff Goodman says that despite their 0-2 start in the ACC, coach Al Skinner has a versatile lineup in his Boston College roster. Bulpett looks at the rough road thus far for Boston College. Vega’s notebook looks at BC freshman guard Tyrese Rice missing the potential game winner.

FSN has Celtics/Mavericks at 7:30. ESPN has Cincinnati/UConn at 7:00 and Texas/Iowa State at 9:00. OLN has Blues/Avalanche at 9:00.

BSMW SporTView 01.06.06

Patriots fans who have only been on board the bandwagon since 2001 will be in for a new experience tomorrow night as the Patriots take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first wildcard playoff game of the Brady/Belichick era. It’s the second playoff game of the day for ABC, which will have the Redskins traveling to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers at 4:30.

The Prime Time Patriots game will be called by the Monday Night Football team of John Madden and Al Michaels.

The Celtics play the Hawks tonight and travel to Washington tomorrow to play the Wizards. Both games are on FSN, while the Bruins play the Lightning tomorrow at 5:00 on NESN. Other than those games and the NFL playoffs, there is pretty much only college basketball remaining on the schedule.

Patriots All Access will air at 7:00 tonight on WCVB Channel 5, with a one hour show. According to the Herald Patriots notebook today, the show will feature Bill Belichick breaking down film of his dad Steve from the 1940′s and some film of the 1980′s New York Giants. The Globe SportsPlus is on at 5:30 and around 9:30 tonight on NESN after the college hockey game. Jerome Solomon, Ron Borges and Tim Fox will be on to preview the NFL playoff games this weekend. CBS4 will have Patriots Game Day prior to the game tomorrow night at 7:00.

For the weekend, you can check in here and get links on the following pages:

News and Notes from the Week That Was

When Michael Felger started his 890 AM ESPN Radio gig, he promised no Big Show-like antics. He made reference to WEEI talking for hours and days about “Manny peeing in the wall” and promised there would be none of that. He started the show by hanging up on “celebrity callers”. Apparently Felger has decided that the noble path isn’t working. At the beginning of the week, he made a huge show out of the Doug Flutie dropkick, allowed “Danny from Quincy” on the air to rant, and basically resorted to all the old tricks he learned while at the knee of Glenn Ordway. Too bad. The show, which started out with so much promise and potential, has degenerated into Big Show Lite. Ron Borges will appear with Felger this afternoon, and it promises to be a WWE-like affair.

SporTView0106.jpg

Carrot on a Stick

When Flutie made that dropkick, you immediately knew it would be the top story of the day from most newspapers and other media. In Bill Belichick’s press conference following the game, the first four questions were about the kick. Not about resting the starters, not about whether they played the game so that they would end up playing Jacksonville, but about a gimmick play that netted one point. It makes you wonder if that was the point all along. Give the media something you know they would chase and fawn after. They followed along like a donkey going after a carrot on a stick…

Empty Vest Syndrome

If Steve Burton asks Belichick any questions this weekend during press conferences, be sure to note the coach’s response. It will likely be a one word answer. It’s clear the Patriots coach isn’t pleased with Burton since the CBS4 sports reporter apparently decided to inject himself into the spotlight. On Thursday while on WEEI, Burton seemed to suggest that he was responsible for Belichick coming out and saying that Tedy Bruschi had a “calf” injury as opposed to just a “leg” injury. Burton was making the case that Belichick only made the distinction due to Burton’s persistent questioning after Bruschi sustained the injury while playing on special teams. On the Big Show, Burton demanded to know when Belichick has ever been that specific about an injury before…ever.

Well Steve, the week prior, leading up to the Tampa game, Corey Dillon was also on the injury report…with a calf injury.

Combative Corey?

On Thursday afternoon, word trickled out of Foxboro that Corey Dillon had “gone off” on a few print reporters. Apparently a reporter was talking to the running back on a 1-1 basis, and some others wanted to get in on the action. The way it was presented in the afternoon was that Dillon has basically snapped and unleashed a profanity filled tirade against the reporter. Glenn Ordway read the quotes from Dillon in a couple of sarcastic voices over the air. (The second time after it was suggested he didn’t sound enough like an “angry black man”.) Felger also spent a lot time on his radio show pounding on the situation.

On FSN’s New England Sports Tonight, Greg Dickerson did a good job of setting the record straight. He pointed out that Dillon had just answered the same questions before the cameras, and that Dillon’s frustrations seemed pointed more at his contributions to the team rather than any attitude problem. Dickerson stressed a couple of times that this was not Dillon being a malcontent, but rather him perhaps expressing his desire to be able to help his team more, and perhaps to pump himself up for the game on Saturday. In a market where everyone is quick to assume the worst, Dickerson distinguished himself by presenting a more reasonable approach.

I Don’t Like Mike

How did the Boston media let Mike Freeman get away? The former Boston Globe and New York Times writer who has appeared on WEEI and ESPN Boston this week seems like he’d fit right in here. He’s got the “look at me” style of journalism down pat, (look at the Brady article today) and his checkered past includes being sued by John Daly for defamation and losing a job with the Indianapolis Star after lying on his resume. I may be guilty of beating up a guy for his past transgressions here, but if I’m Jacksonville, I’m not sure I want him out there as the face of my sports media…

Other bits…Ryen Russillo was terrific on FSN Wednesday night following the Celtics game. He called things as they were without trying to stir things up or be controversial. The others on the program with him deferred to his basketball knowledge, a wise move on their part. Michael Holley reported today that WEEI and Keith Foulke have come to an agreement which will have the Red Sox embattled closer on the Dale & Holley show each Friday during the season for the next two years. No word on whether another truck is involved…(Edit: They later clarified that they were joking. Holley said he made the statement to annoy Dale.) Pete Prisco on D&C this morning said he voted for Peyton Manning as league MVP. His reasoning was simple he said, the Colts were the best team in the league, and Manning drove them. With that logic, we can be sure that Prisco voted for Tom Brady the last two seasons, right?

Three Questions with Eric McHugh

One thing I would like to do in this space is occasionally spotlight one of the lesser known media members in the region. This week I caught up with Eric McHugh, who does a great job covering the Patriots for the Quincy Patriot Ledger. As this is a busy week for McHugh with the Patriots prepping this week for their playoff matchup with Jacksonville, I only had three questions for him. Hopefully this will give you a little bit better idea of who he is and where he comes from as you read his coverage of the team.

1) Could you give us a little of your background, where you’re from, how long you’ve been at the Patriot Ledger, on the Patriots beat, etc?

I’m 37, married, with a 20-month-old daughter. I was born and raised in Queens, N.Y., about a 10-minute walk from what used to be the site of the U.S. Open tennis tournament (the West Side Tennis Club) and a 20-minute drive (with traffic) from Shea Stadium, which is why I can say “Mark Bomback” or “Doug Flynn” to Scott Pioli, a closet Mets fan, and he knows exactly what I’m talking about. (Sorry for outing you, Scott.) I graduated from NYU, where I took only one journalism course and was a Phi Beta Kappa, which, believe me, sounds much more impressive than it really is. (I made the mistake of joining their national organization after college and I kept getting this newsletter that tried to get me to go to “discussion groups” where we’d all sit around and talk about 14th century Flemish poetry or something. Thanks … pass.) I spent 10 years in Connecticut at The Greenwich Time, where I moved up to sports editor and realized I hated management and needed to be a writer again. I fished around for a few months, got polite no-thank-yous from all the big-name papers and was lucky enough to finally land at the Ledger in 2000 (ironically, during the Mets-Yankees Subway Series). I’ve been covering the Patriots ever since, but I only became the beat guy in 2002, after the legendary Ron Hobson moved into semi-retirement.

2) Best and worst part of the job?

The best part of the job – apart from going to the games, getting to know the athletes, coaches and front office people as real people and not just as names in a program, and the truly exquisite oatmeal cookies at Gillette Stadium – is that sportswriter is the only occupation I ever considered, so if I couldn’t do this I would have no idea how I would make any money. If you had asked me back in fourth grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said this right here. Not a lot of people are lucky enough to have their ideal job.

As for the bad parts, listen, I don’t run into burning buildings, I don’t work 34-hour shifts in the emergency room, I don’t have to worry about getting buried alive in a mineshaft, and I don’t come under sniper fire in some godforsaken place I can’t even pronounce 11,000 miles from home … so “bad” in this case is a relative term. The only downside is that because of the Ledger’s news cycle, our deadlines are so late that I can (and do most nights) stay up until 2 or 2:30 in the morning writing. When my daughter wakes us up at 7, I think – hey, maybe I shouldn’t have written that third story last night.

3) Do you see a Three-peat in the works this winter for the Patriots?

Well, I picked them back in training camp, so I guess I’ll stick with them, even though I was off the bandwagon temporarily (along with everybody else) at midseason. Their run defense will be fine because they might have the best front seven in football. Their passing game will be tough for anybody to handle, especially if they can get the ball to Benjamin Watson a little more than they did in the regular season. He’s an ‘X’ factor that teams didn’t have to contend with in last year’s playoffs, and look how successful Brady was then. The lack of a running game seems like a problem, but as I wrote this week, the 2002 Bucs and 2003 Patriots each finished 27th in rushing and won Super Bowls, so it can be done. My main concern would be the secondary, which has improved dramatically (who isn’t an Ellis Hobbs fan by this point?) but still hasn’t faced an upper-echelon quarterback like they would see in the next two rounds, should they make it that far.

Thanks Eric, I appreciate your help with that. As I mentioned, I’d like the chance from time to time to spotlight other sports media personalities who perhaps don’t get as much of the spotlight as their colleagues.

Sports Media Columns from around the country:

David Scott, BSMW – NESN Going Big Time

Fluto Shinzawa, Boston Globe – Quinnipiac goes on offensive.

John Howell, Hartford Courant – With Fox Entering The BCS Picture, Expect A Few Changes.

Andrew Neff, Bangor Daily News – York native new WVII sports director Inside Hockey East show kicks off eight-episode run tonight on NESN.

Boston Radio Watch – WEEI’s Whineys make it to the big stage.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News – Troy sees the ‘Boy in Manning.

Richard Sandomir, New York Times – When It Comes to N.F.L., CBS and Fox Claim No.1.

Also this week from Sandomir:

Four-Hour Rose Bowl Never Lost Its Bloom

Old Voice Cries Out in Wilderness of ESPN

Neil Best, New York Newsday – Nets’ sales pitch: lots of curves.

Phil Mushnick, New York Post – ABC couldn’t live up to hype.

Jim Williams, DC Examiner – Esiason, Simms, Long weigh in on Skins.

Michael Hiestand, USA Today – Signs of progress on NFL sidelines.

Barry Jackson, Miami Herald – Rose Bowl bloom: Game’s rating highest since ’87.

Ed Sherman, Chicago Tribune – Time right for Jackson’s exit.

David Barron, Houston Chronicle – UT-USC already viewed as a classic.

Larry Stewart, Los Angeles Times – Simms and Esiason Have Faith in Palmer.

Also from Stewart:

ABC Comes Up Smelling Like a Rose With Telecast

Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News – In TV terms, it’ll rank near the top.

Jay Poser, San Diego Union Tribune – Jackson should exit on grand game.

Are We There Yet?

Ron Borges has his scouting report for tomorrow night’s game, and he says that injuries on defense could prove to be Jacksonville’s downfall. Jim Lazar and Jim McCabe make their picks for the weekend. I.M. Bettor outlines where his action is going this weekend as well. The BSMW Patriots Game Day page also has a preview of the game.

Karen Guregian asserts that while past experience won’t guarantee them any victories this postseason, the Patriots veterans do know what it takes to win these games. Amalie Benjamin looks at some of the role players on the Patriots, who might not grab all the headlines and media attention in the locker room, but who are just as important to the club’s success as the stars. Tim Weisberg has a look at Artrell Hawkins, who is seeing the first playoff action of his career. Rob Bradford looks at Mr Clutch for the Patriots, Adam Vinatieri, who is the only kicker with field goals in four Super Bowls.

Ian Clark reports on Corey Dillon’s session with the print media yesterday, which seemed to grow a bit confrontational after Dillon was pressed about his struggles this season. John Tomase (Who it was said on WEEI yesterday was the cause of the incident, and who was later on ESPN Boston to talk about it.) says Dillon takes personally the suggestions that the Patriots won’t be able to run on the Jaguars tomorrow night. Christopher Price also reports on the incident, which is also mentioned in nearly all of the notebook articles below.

Jerome Solomon has an article on Tom Brady’s favorite receiver. The open one. Tomase looks at Brady finishing third in the MVP voting. Chris Kennedy looks at some key members of the offensive line whose job it will be to keep Brady out of harm’s way and ensure that he has the time to find that open receiver. After Matt Cassel got his first TD pass since high school last week, Steve Buckley talked to six quarterbacks, three from the Patriots, two from Boston College, and one from UNH, to have them described their last high school touchdown.

Tony Massarotti and Tom E Curran look at Tedy Bruschi sharing the comeback player of the year award with Carolina’s Steve Smith. Michael Parente has Bruschi saying that he had to give it a shot at football, otherwise he would’ve regretted it down the road and always wondered about it. Chris Kennedy has more on the award for the Patriots linebacker and Alan Greenberg also reports on the honor for Bruschi.

A lot of attention has been given to the Jacksonville front seven this week. Massarotti has Richard Seymour reminding people that the Patriots group isn’t half bad themselves. Steve Britt writes that the Patriots are taking the physical Jaguars very seriously. Eric McHugh notes that because the Patriots defensive backs can’t grow overnight, they’re going to have to settle for playing big when trying to matchup up with the tall receivers of Jacksonville. Jim Donaldson is sick of the “disrespect theme. I’m tired of the media making a huge deal about it. If they use it for motivation, good for them…it seems to have worked pretty well thus far. Why the outrage?

Tomase’s notebook has Jack Del Rio and Byron Leftwich being ok with Tom Brady playing the disrespect card earlier in the week. Solomon’s notebook has more on Brady finishing third in the MVP balloting. Curran’s notebook has more on Dillon’s session with the media yesterday afternoon. Dan Pires’ notebook also looks at the Dillon incident, and has a couple of other items of note. Parente’s notebook reports that the Patriots will be on the lookout for versatile Jaguars rookie Matt Jones. McHugh’s notebook explores how much the Patriots postseason experience can help them.

Nick Cafardo looks at how Jacksonville management has attempted to build a tough, smart team, and how they’ve succeeded thus far. Albert Breer notes that size does matter for the Jaguars, who are big, strong and tough. Alan Greenberg looks at Leftwich, who believes there is no advantage for the Patriots in playing in the cold. He says he played in snow and cold quite often during his college years at Marshall. Mark Long of the AP says that the Jags hope to get to Tom Brady and rattle him a bit. Cafardo’s notebook reports on Leftwich finishing up a week of practice without any setbacks. Get more coverage from Jacksonsville.com

Michael Silverman reports that Manny might be resigned to staying with the Red Sox, after making statements to an ESPN Deportes reporter yesterday. Sean McAdam says that the window of opportunity to trade Ramirez could be closing. Gordon Edes, meanwhile, reports that David Ortiz could be closing in on a contract extension with the Red Sox. Also in that article, Edes talks to Manny’s agent who says that Ramirez denies making the comments about staying in Boston…

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell, Steve Conroy and Joe McDonald report on the Bruins toppling the mighty Senators for the second time this season, 4-2. Check out another very good edition of the BSMW Power Play for some thoughts on last night’s game. Douglas Flynn says that this could be a huge win for Bruins, despite the Senators not being in peak form. The news wasn’t all good for the Bruins last night as Hannu Toivonen went down with an apparent ankle injury. Mick Colageo reports on Andrew Raycroft stepping in and playing well in Toivonen’s place. Conroy has more on Raycroft stepping in.

Kevin Paul Dupont ponders whether Alexander Mogilny could be a good fit for the Bruins. Mike Loftus notes that the Bruins defense has been picking up as of late. Flynn looks at Hal Gill throwing his size around a little bit on the ice last night, to the enjoyment of the Bruins fans. Conroy’s notebook looks at Brad Boyes getting the game winner for the Bruins last night, an indication that his luck may have changed a bit. Burrell’s notebook looks at Raycroft stepping into the game last night. McDonald’s notebook and Flynn’s notebook each look at some injured Bruins making progress.

Mark Murphy has Doc Rivers stressing that his team needs to cut down on their turnovers. Marvin Pave also looks at this needed area of improvement for the Celtics. Mike Fine notes that the Celtics seem to be doing all they can these days to toss away games. Scott Souza notes that the Celtics can count themselves fortunate that they’re coming off a win Wednesday night. Murphy has Rivers lobbying Paul Pierce’s case for the All Star team. Murphy’s notebook reports that the Celtics likely won’t be signing any players to 10 day contracts soon.

Check the New York Sports Pages and Bay Area Sports for more coverage from around the country.

Check back later for another edition of BSMW SporTView…

Two Days To Go

The Celtics managed a win on their home court last night, just getting by the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 109-106. Peter May notes that it was all about the turnovers last night. Mark Murphy says that the Celtics had a lot in common with the second year expansion team from Charlotte. Shalise Manza Young writes that sometimes a win is just a win. Lenny Megliola notes some of the eye-popping numbers from last night and how the Celtics still managed to win somehow.

Michael Vega looks at Celtics rookie point guard Orien Greene, who made some key plays down the stretch to help the Celtics to victory last night. Murphy has some more on the turnover happy Celtics from last night. Steve Bulpett reports that the agent for former Celtic Vin Baker has had to file a grievance in an effort to recoup some of the money he says Baker owes him. May’s notebook looks a the struggles at the All Star ballot box being experienced by Paul Pierce. Murphy’s notebook reports that Tony Allen is once again close to being activated. Young’s notebook has more on the team’s issues with defense and turnovers.

Eric McHugh says that for the Patriots to be successful in the playoffs, they’re going to need to rely on Tom Brady’s arm. Michael Felger looks at a pair of decisions made by Bill Belichick and Jack Del Rio heading into this week which could play a role in who history views each coach. Alan Greenberg looks at the disrespect angle and how the Patriots usually make the opposition pay at any perceived slight. Mike Reiss has a look at Patriots rookie offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur, both of whom have stepped in and played huge roles for the club this season. Tom E Curran has the Patriots paying a lot of respect to the Jaguars defensive line. Steve Buckley (subscription only) says that the Patriots claim of disrespect is nonsense and if any team can claim that role, it is the Jags. Steve Britt has more on the respect angle.

Rob Bradford looks at Rodney Harrison’s appearance in the locker room the other day as he tries to pump up his teammates. Howard Ulman of the AP also looks at the safety who vows to return to the field. Steve Buckley notes that the Patriots choose to not even think about failure. McHugh looks at how both teams lost their heart and soul safeties to injury this season. Ulman also notes that for the Patriots, the playoffs are all about preparation for the opposition. Barry Wilner of the AP reports of Tedy Bruschi winning a share of the comeback player of the year award. Reiss looks at some of the Patriots who will be experiencing the first playoff test of their careers.

Jerome Solomon’s notebook notes that the Patriots are preparing for both Leftwich and David Garrard this week. Curran’s notebook says that the Patriots are locked into the Jaguars, at the expense of other hobbies or crafts. Tomase’s notebook and Parente’s notebook each point out the fact that the first game winning kick of Adam Vinatieri’s career came against the Jaguars. Megliola points out that Flutie Magic began with a kick in high school.

Nick Cafardo says that the Jaguars defense is going to do their best to get to Tom Brady and force him to make mistakes on Saturday night. John Tomase has a look at the big receivers of Jacksonville, which may cause some problems for the undersized Patriots secondary. Michael Parente compares Byron Leftwich to a poor man’s Tom Brady. Tomase counts Larry Izzo as a fan of Jack Del Rio from their days in a Dolphins training camp. Chris Kennedy says that the prospect of cold weather doesn’t bother the Jaguars. Kevin Henkin says that the Jaguars boasting could come back to haunt them. McHugh’s notebook says that Leftwich isn’t worried about being rusty on Saturday night. Cafardo’s notebook reports that injured D-Lineman Paul Spicer plans on playing against the Patriots. You can get more coverage from Jacksonville.com

Buddy Thomas tells us that Shaun Alexander is the NFL MVP.

David Scott reports on the Red Sox taking out the Friday night UPN38/CBS4 package and moving all their television games in house to NESN. Michael Silverman in the Herald gives us our daily update that Manny Ramirez hasn’t been traded yet. Tony Massarotti says Manny is greedy for wanting the two option years of his contract picked up as a condition of any trade. Gordon Edes looks at Red Sox pitchers eligible for arbitration.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reports that Hannu Toivonen will get the start once again tonight, further cementing his place as the #1 goaltender for the Bruins. Steve Conroy looks at the power play, another area that has been killing the Bruins this season. Conroy’s notebook looks at Nick Boynton taking a quick twirl on the ice yesterday.

Mark Blaudschun reports on Vince Young leading Texas past USC in the National Championship Game played in the Rose Bowl last night. Bob Ryan has more on what may have been the “greatest of all Rose Bowl performances”.

NESN has Bruins/Senators at 7:00.

A Matter of Respect

After carefully choosing through the options available to them, Tom Brady and the Patriots have decided to once again go with the “disrespect” theme for their postseason run. Jerome Solomon reports on Patriots QB flipping the disrespect card which the Jaguars tried to play and applying it to his own team. Chris Kennedy looks at how both teams are trying to run with this angle. The AP’s Howard Ulman analyzes which team is really getting the least respect. Christopher Price notes that no team plays the respect card better than the Patriots.

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider has Titans GM Floyd Reese noting that the Patriots are in for a stern test this week against the Jaguars. There is also a Bruschi update and a look at Terry Glenn’s season in Dallas. Eric McHugh takes a look back at the last time these two teams played, back in 2003 and if there is anything that can be learned from that encounter. Bill Burt lists out five keys for the Patriots if they hope for a three-peat. Dan Pires has a look at Rodney Harrison, who made an appearance in the locker room yesterday. Pires also looks at rookies who are not really rookies any longer, and the injury report. Albert Breer has more on Harrison, who is keeping the faith and thankful for the support of his family and teammates. Steve Buckley (Subscription only) has Harrison referencing the recovery and return of Rosevelt Colvin as inspiration for his own future.

Alan Greenberg has a nice mini-feature on rookie offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, who has fit right in with the Patriots and filled a hole on the line as needed. Steve Britt looks at how Kaczur and Russ Hochstein filled right in for the injured Matt Light and Dan Koppen this season, with the line seemingly not missing a beat. Steve Buckley has Mike Vrabel speaking about the contributions the players wives and their families make to the weekly preparation for the Patriots.

Nick Cafardo has a look at Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich, who insists that he will be ready to go on Sunday and that the time off will have actually helped him make his game stronger and better. John Tomase looks at the Jags dominant duo at defensive tackle, a pair that has made their name know around the league. Tom E Curran says that Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio is leaving himself open for a second guess with his decision to bring Leftwich back for this week. Michael Parente notes that Del Rio has had to deal with a rash of injuries similar to that which Bill Belichick faced this year. He also looks at Jags roster and their style of play. Tomase has more on Byron Leftwich, who insists he’ll be ready and this his teammates want him out on the field. You can get more coverage on the Jaguars from Jacksonville.com.

Solomon’s notebook has more on Rodney Harrison’s session in the locker room yesterday. Cafardo’s notebook has Tom Brady’s claims of disrespect being met with laughter by the Jaguars. Tomase’s notebook says that the weather should not be a problem for the Jags, even if it is cold. Curran’s notebook and Parente’s notebook have more on the disrespect theme.

Steve Bulpett has a feature this morning on former Celtics coach Rick Pitino, who talks at length about his time in Boston, the mistakes he made, and how he is so much more well suited for the college game. This is a good article and perhaps in lieu of that final press conference which never took place, offers some closure on the situation, some five years after he left Boston for the final time. Shira Springer has the Celtics hoping to remedy their issues on defense, and get themselves back on track. Bulpett looks at the Celtics offense, which while it may seem to be a strength of the team, hurts the club with costly turnovers. Bulpett advocates giving the younger players minutes, and points to Delonte West’s development as a good example of what happens to a young player who gets playing time.

Gordon Edes reports that no progress is being made on a Manny/Tejada trade. David Heuschkel notes that there are plenty of obstacles out there to any blockbuster trade being made. Tony Massarotti reports that the Red Sox are still in talks with Tampa Bay regarding shortstop Julio Lugo. If you have an ESPN Insider logon, the Peter Gammons article from yesterday is a worthy read. He looks at the Red Sox as a team that may have lost a lot of players, but still has a strong core to build around this season.

Stephen Harris has Andrew Raycroft working his way through a difficult season with the Bruins. Frank Dell-Apa has coach Mike Sullivan saying that his team needs to do better with second-chance opportunities.

Michael Vega and Rich Thompson report on Boston College rolling over UMass in last night’s 11th edition of the Commonwealth Classic. Lenny Megliola and Ron Chimelis also have accounts of the game. Chimelis’ notebook says that the rivalry between the two schools will continue. Thompson looks at the defensive presence of Sean Williams as a factor for the Eagles last night.

Bob Ryan looks ahead to tonight’s matchup of USC and Texas for the National Championship in the Rose Bowl. Jon Couture thinks that Texas is poised to break through and beat Southern Cal tonight. Mark Blaudschun notes that this matchup has plenty to offer for the viewer. Jeff Jacobs says that Pete Carroll always has fun.

John Molori has his 2005 BLITZY winners in this week’s edition of Media Blitz.

FSN has Celtics/Bobcats at 7:30. ABC has Texas/USC in the Rose Bowl at 8:00.

Back to Work…

With a final look back at Sunday’s game before turning our focus solely to Jacksonville, Michael Felger has his Patriots report card for the Miami game, getting a chance to grade Matt Cassel and the other backups. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) says that the Patriots did the right thing by losing on Sunday, and they’re doing their part to ensure the apocalyptic showdown with the Colts on Jan. 15. Hector Longo on the other hand, believes that taking Sunday off sent the wrong message to the Patriots players and that the day of rest will come back to bite them. It’s another cry for attention from Longo, who continues to try to make his rep as a mini-Borges. Borges though, promoted Belichick for coach of the year and Tom Brady for MVP over the weekend in his Sunday notes column. Bill Reynolds says that right now, the Patriots look pretty good, and that’s a surprise after some of their earlier performances this season.

With the Jaguars lined up as the playoff opponent for Saturday night, Jerome Solomon has Bill Belichick talking about the squad, and a word he used often was “tough”. Tom E Curran also focuses on the toughness of the Jags. Sidepoint – I thought the Steelers were the tough, smashmouth team, and that’s why the consensus was that the Patriots should try to ensure that they played Jacksonville…a theory I’m still not confident of. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots getting back to business now that their fun of last week is over. The AP’s Jimmy Golen looks at the Patriots entering a new world (for them) of Wild Card play. Michael Parente notes that the Patriots have a reduced time schedule in which to prepare for their prime time game on Saturday.

John Tomase says that the Jaguars are playing the disrespect card, playing up the fact that other teams and the experts decided they were the easiest first round opponent. Nick Cafardo, covering the Jaguars side this week, also has the team talking about the Patriots tanking in order to ensure that they would play Jacksonville, which they in turn are using as motivation. Albert Breer says that Jacksonville deserves respect. The AP’s Mark Long has more on Jacksonville playing up their underdog role against the two time defending champs. Get more from the Florida perspective from Jacksonville.com.

Solomon’s notebook looks at the first time playoff participants on the Patriots and how they’re looking forward to this first test. Tomase’s notebook looks at Andre Davis possibly adding a spark to the Patriots kickoff return team for the postseason. Cafardo’s notebook examines some of the injuries facing the Jaguars this week. Parente’s notebook has Byron Leftwich as the expected starter at QB for the Jags. Curran’s notebook has more on the Jacksonville injuries.

Bud Collins says that Doug Flutie’s drop kick extra point on Sunday brought back a few other memories. Bill Burt writes that Raymond Berry and Bill Belichick were cut from the same cloth, but we didn’t appreciate it back then. Jonathan Comey lists out the best and worst of the 2005 regular season. Albert Breer reports on Northborough