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.