So now what?

New England sports fans find themselves without a horse in the January NFL playoffs for the first time since 2003. While there will still be football games going on, it won’t quite be the same without Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company occupying the most anticipated time slot of the weekend.

However, the local media has the Red Sox to thank for providing them ample fodder for discussion with their press release last night about Theo Epstein’s return to the organization and the promise of a press conference next week to further discuss the issue.

The two NFL conference championship games will be held on Sunday, with CBS broadcasting the AFC title game (Pittsburgh at Denver) at 3:00 and FOX carrying the NFC game (Carolina at Seattle) at 6:30.

Jim McCabe and Jim Lazar have their picks for this weekend. I.M. Bettor likes the home teams this weekend, but Double D thinks that the Steelers might be worth some play.

The Globe has short scouting reports on Steelers/Broncos and Panthers/Seahawks. Alan Greenberg has a good piece on Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who talks about his interception of Tom Brady last week.

Mike Reiss has the news of the Patriots officially naming Josh McDaniels as Offensive Coordinator. Beyond the fact that McDaniels was in many ways the public face of the position this season, the move makes sense from the standpoint that if another team had wanted to interview and hire McDaniels as their OC, they would not have needed to get permission from the Patriots as it would’ve been an upward move from the Quarterbacks Coach title McDaniels had officially held.

Yesterday, Greg Gatlin in the Herald wrote a column entitled Fans: Hitting home team foul. It is a look at whether fans will put up with sportswriters criticizing the New England Patriots. It is centered around the column from this site last Friday which called for the firing of Ron Borges. I think the article is pretty fair for the most part, though there are still some areas where I think our point is being missed. Gatlin writes:

The anti-Borges crew insists that they

Random Quote

This is the ultimate dilemma. Of course fans want the Red Sox to win the World Series, but the dilemma is be careful what you wish for because you might get it. And if the Red Sox played the Cubs in the World Series, one of those two franchises will be permanently and forever altered. One of them will never be the same. So remember, while winning is the ultimate goal. If you’re a Sox fan or a Cubs fan, it carries a steep price tag. Life will never be the same.

— Bob Lobel, chat 10/9/2003