Sox Inch Closer

The Red Sox managed to reduce their magic number for clinching the AL East this afternoon without stepping foot on the field. The Blue Jay defeated the Yankees to bring the magic number down to five games. The Red Sox are off tonight and start a quick two game series with Oakland tomorrow night.

With the Sox off tonight, it means Monday Night Football (8:30, ESPN) is the only game in town. Tonight’s matchup is Tennessee at New Orleans, and since the Patriots are playing in this time slot next week, you might as well get used to Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Tony Kornheiser.

Here are a few national football columns from today:

Peter King has his weekly edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, with plenty of Favre love.

Michael Silver in Morning Rush has San Diego GM A.J. Smith running out of scapegoats.

Tom Curran also takes a look around the NFL.

Larry Weisman looks at Randy Moss’ historic start in New England.

———————————————–
Here is some Patriots-related chatter from around the pre-game shows yesterday:

ESPN

On Randy Moss as a Leader with the Patriots …

Analyst Emmitt Smith: “It’s easy to be a leader when you’re winning. The winning teams have a bunch of leaders, as a matter of fact. Everybody’s standing up and saying, ‘This is great. Yeah, this is fun.’ When things get tough, that’s when you’re looking for your leader to step up.”

Tom Jackson: “The question was not how he’s playing. The question was, ‘Is he a leader or not.’ (Citing Moss quote from his days with Minnesota Vikings) ‘I’ll play when I want to.’ I will not forget it.”

Sunday Headlines with ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen:

‘Spygate’ Fallout“This week, the NFL said the Patriots complied with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s orders to turn over requested videotapes and other materials. Those were destroyed to ensure the Patriots don’t utilize past espionage work for future games. For Goodell, it was also essential the Patriots certified by letter that they had complied and had not made any copies of the materials. If it’s proven otherwise, the certified letter will be used against them and the penalties will be severe. As for alleged radio communication shenanigans by the Patriots, the league found no hard evidence to support those claims but beginning this weekend, NFL security will be equipped with monitoring devices allowing them to listen in on such communications…not just for the Pats, but all teams.”

Man-Genius Under Fire?
“Jets coach Eric Mangini also has come under fire from a few in his coaching fraternity who claim he broke a code by blowing the whistle on the Patriots. But there were three or four teams not named the Jets last year who alleged the Patriots were cheating – this time, NFL security was able to secure the videotape. Then again, sources say the Pats suspect the Jets had tipped off other teams last year about their videotaping practices.”

CBS

(On concussions):

Charlie Casserly: I think the NFL coaches and the teams have gotten a bad rap in this off-season about sending players back into games when they’ve had head injuries before they should. I had 29 years in the league. My experience with doctors, trainers and coaches was the opposite. In fact, they were extra cautious about sending players back into the game with head injuries.

(On Patriots going undefeated this season):

Dan Marino: With Moss and Brady and the talent and Belichick and everything, I want to say yes, but I’m going to say no. Let me tell you why I say no because they’re probably going to clinch their division early. There’s always a chance of injuries. Belichick will shut it down if they clinch and have home-field advantage. But they also have to play Indianapolis at Indianapolis…They do have the talent to do it and they just might.

FOX

Co-Host Terry Bradshaw on whether the Patriots can go undefeated: “The Patriots can absolutely go undefeated. The worst thing that could have happened to the rest of the league was ‘Spygate’ because now they are so focused.”

Patriots Handle Bills With Ease

The Patriots actually trailed for a short time in yesterday’s game, as the Buffalo Bills took a 7-3 lead behind rookies Marshawn Lynch and Trent Edwards, the Patriots then answered by running off 35 unanswered points in a 38-7 win at Gillette Stadium.

Scott Benson says it took just a little while, but the Patriots eventually dragged themselves out of bed and went to work yesterday. Christopher L. Gasper says that the Patriots are making football look like child’s play. Karen Guregian says that the Patriots were once again the proverbial men amongst boys yesterday. Mark Farinella says that the Patriots are stealing the number 38 from Curt Schilling. Shalise Manza Young notes that while the Patriots seemed to ease up on the Bills for a while in the second half, they took control quickly. Douglas Flynn says that the Patriots proved that even when they’re bad, they’re still really good. Chris Kennedy has the Patriots overcoming early mistakes to rout the Bills. Michael Parente has the Patriots turning a brief nail-biter into another one-sided laugher. Mike Lowe has the Patriots offering up a repeat performance of the first two weeks of the season.

Christopher Price has his 10 Things We Learned Yesterday. Jackie MacMullan is gushing over Randy Moss and his third straight 100-yard receiving day. Michael Felger says that the scary thing is that the Patriots didn’t even really play that well yesterday. Jim Donaldson says that you might as well hand the AFC East crown to the Patriots right now. Lenny Megliola has the Patriots claiming that they’ve still got a ways to go, even if they’re all impressed with the gifts of Moss. Ian M. Clark says that the Patriots are every bit as good as people thought they were on paper.

Even Tony Massarotti can’t find anything negative to write about, noting that the “Patriots currently have so many weapons its borderline perverse.” Jennifer Toland has Tom Brady raising his game another notch thus far this season. David Heuschkel notes that the headline combination of Brady and Moss was unstoppable once again. Robert Lee has his Patriots teammates in awe of Randy Moss and what he is capable of on the field.
Dan Ventura looks at just another day at the office for grizzled veteran Tom Brady. Donaldson has Bill Belichick seeing room for improvement in Brady’s play. Dan Pires has Moss rolling on in his stint with the Patriots.

Mike Reiss focuses on Wes Welker, who was the Patriots sparkplug yesterday, both on offense and returning punts. David Brown says that Welker’s work yesterday was special for the Patriots. Guregian has more on what Welker is doing for this team, particularly on special teams, where he had 72 yards in punt returns. Farinella notes that the extra work that the Patriots put into their punt return teams this week in practice paid off yesterday. Robert Lee has Welker shining on both offense and special teams yesterday. Toland looks at the versatile receiver proving his value yesterday. Heuschkel looks at a risky play by Welker working out this time, though his coach wasn’t all that impressed with it. Flynn says that Welker will be taken to the woodshed this week for that play.

Massarotti says that even though the players continue to harp on their failures in the red zone, there is little room for improvement in the Patriots defense, which has allowed the fourth fewest points in the NFL. Farinella has the defense making some quick adjustments after Edwards came in. Rich Garven says that the Patriots had a little bit of a lull, but no letdown yesterday. Tim Weisberg says that the Patriots at least showed they were human for a short time yesterday. Steve Solloway says that we’re watching a Patriots team like you’ve never seen before.

Felger has the best & the worst from yesterday. Art Martone offers game analysis from both sides of the ball. Heuschkel’s sidelines report looks at what went right and wrong for the Patriots yesterday. Garven notes that this was another 38 special for the Patriots.

Ventura has J.P. Losman talking about his short day, in which he was hit hard twice by the Patriots. One might wonder if his comments from this week gave the Patriots any extra incentive to put a hit on him. (Losman noted how he has never beaten the Patriots, and wondered if the camera stuff had something to do with it. No, J.P., you’re just not very good.) Michael Vega has Aaron Schobel being held mostly in check by the Patriots offensive line. Reiss notes that injuries really hurt the Bills yesterday, and in all three games thus far this season. Farinella has Edwards getting a baptism of fire with his NFL debut yesterday.

Guregian’s notebook has Asante Samuel celebrating his return to the starting lineup with an interception. Gasper’s notebook has more on the return of Samuel. Young’s notebook has a look at the running game, where Laurence Maroney had his second career 100 yard rushing game and Sammy Morris was impressive once again as well. Kennedy’s notebook has more on the potent Brady/Moss combination. Weisberg’s notebook has punter Chris Hanson not getting a whole lot of work thus far this season. Lowe’s notebook has the Patriots special teams answering a challenge this week.

Cold, Hard Football Facts has a new-look with their re-designed website, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. John Molori says that FOX’s analysts yesterday were ignorant in their criticism of Donovan McNabb’s comments from earlier this week.

Red Sox

The Red Sox did clinch a post season berth over the weekend, and now, enter the final week of the regular season still fighting to hang onto the division lead. Yesterday didn’t help, as Tim Wakefield’s magic against the Devil Rays wore off in a 5-4 loss in Tampa. The AL East lead sits at 1.5 games.

Rob Bradford has Tampa starter Edwin Jackson shutting down the Red Sox for five innings yesterday. Gordon Edes has more on the Sox falling in Tampa, a day after clinching at least a wildcard spot in the playoffs. Sean McAdam says that the Red Sox face some tough multi-tasking in the final six games of the season. Bill Ballou notes just how bad the Red Sox rotation has been in September. Jeff Goldberg looks at Wakefield falling to the Devil Rays for the first time in Tampa.

Steve Buckley says that the Red Sox might want to win the AL East, but they don’t need to do it. Mike Underwood says that the fans want the Red Sox to take the division. Nick Cafardo says that Bryan Corey could be in the mix for a postseason roster spot. Buckley looks at Tim Wakefield struggling once again yesterday in the loss.

Bradford’s notebook has Tampa’s Delmon Young challenging Dustin Pedroia for the rookie of the year award. Edes’ notebook has Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis taking batting practice today at Fenway to see how close they are to returning. McAdam’s notebook examines Wakefield’s struggles of late. Ballou’s notebook says that Terry Francona has some tough decisions to make in the final week of the regular season. Goldberg’s notebook has more on Pedroia vs Young for AL Rookie of the Year.

Other

Stephen Harris says that the Bruins hope to be deeper up front this season. Fluto Shinzawa looks at Bobby Allen, who finds himself on the bubble of making the Bruins club. Harris’ notebook has the Bruins dropping a preseason game to Montreal yesterday.

John Connolly has Taylor Twellman feeling sore after suffering a groin injury in Saturday night’s tie with the New York Red Bulls. Frank Dell’Apa has the Revolution struggling with possession in that game.

Mark Blaudschun has a look around the world of college football this week. Steve Conroy has Boston College staying focused after their 4-0 start to the season.

Weekend Watch – Sox Look To Clinch Postseason

The Red Sox hope to at least clinch a playoff spot this weekend in Tampa as they got back on the winning track Friday night behind Josh Beckett’s 20th win of the season. The Sox throw Daisuke Matsuzaka on Saturday and Tim Wakefield on Sunday in their efforts to try and clinch a postseason berth.

Keep up with the coverage on RedSoxLinks.com

The Patriots entertain the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon handle the broadcast for CBS. Patriots Daily is your home for football coverage this weekend, as Saturday Greg Doyle looks at some of the top college games with an eye to the Patriots draft, focusing in on Northwestern/Ohio State and Purdue/Minnesota, with a few others to watch as well. For a full college football TV schedule click here.

Over on the Patriots Buffet Table, the staff eschews the traditional Buffalo Wings for this week’s menu choosing instead another specialty from the Buffalo area, Beef on Weck. There is also a selection of beers to choose from to go with the sandwich.

Here are your NFL TV maps for the weekend. CBS Single Game, Fox Game One, Fox Game Two.

Chad Finn has a nine innings national column for FoxSports. He also goes local with Notes on a scandal.

Larry Mahoney has the original “Big O” – Oscar Robertson – talking about the new-look Celtics.

Ian Thomsen says that Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown was offered the job as an assistant to Doc Rivers this offseason, and he was 90% sure he was coming at one point.

Mark Murphy has more from Ray Allen on his move to the Celtics.

Marc J. Spears talks to some Eastern Conference stars about how the Celtics stack up in the East.

Bill Simmons has his weekend NFL picks.

Tom Curran has a look at who are the frauds and who are the real McCoy’s early on in the NFL season.

Michael Silver has The Gameface for the weekend, and notes that last year’s darlings, the Saints, are already old news.

The Media Circus examines two old targets this week, Chris Berman and John Madden. They also have a new feature Headliners Ball looking at various sports headlines from the week.

National Media Columns

New England

David Scott reports that Glenn Geffner’s role with the Red Sox radio network will be greatly reduced (if not eliminated) next season. Susan Bickelhaupt has a look at Tommy Heinsohn reducing his role slightly on the Celtics TV telecasts this season and has more on the FSN/Comcast SportsNet move. Bill Doyle looks at how several TV commentators really took it to Bill Belichick last weekend. John Molori says that Belichick’s punishment is a beginning and an end.

New York
Phil Mushnick says that thus far, Ron Jaworski, sounds like an imitation of Joe Theismann on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Neil Best has a look at WFAN’s new morning show with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton. Bob Raissman examines the NFL’s efforts to track down how the Patriots tape got leaked to FOX last weekend. Justin Terranova has five questions with Steve Phillips.

More East Coast
Laura Nachman has Ron Jaworski and Suzy Kolber enjoying their homecoming to Philadelphia for Monday Night Football this week. Bob Smizik says that WPKI has the best Steelers coverage on the 11:00pm news. Leonard Shapiro has Pete Medhurst living a dream in his role with CSTV. Michael Hiestand has TBS getting it’s baseball postseason roster in order. Chris Zelkovich says that Hockey Night in Canada will sport a revamped look this season. Jim Williams says that Bob Carpenter will be missed on Nationals broadcasts next season.

South
Barry Horn has 77-year old Pat Summerall enjoying his weekly internet radio show. Dave Darling examines FSN’s new series Sport Science. David Barron has Solomon Wilcots and Ian Eagle looking forward to calling this Sunday’s Colts/Texans matchup.

Midwest
Judd Zulgad says that Charles Barkley gave the ESPN telecast a breath of fresh air on Monday night. Dan Caesar has KSDK throwing golf fans a bone by dropping a Cardinals postgame show to go directly to the final round of the PGA Tour’s Playoffs. Bob Wolfley has ABC’s Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit coming and going for Saturday night’s Wisconsin/Iowa matchup. Jeffrey Flanagan has the Royals pondering a return to the powder-blue uniforms.

West Coast
Christine Daniels takes over Larry Stewart’s sports media column in the Los Angeles Times. Actually, it’s reclaiming old territory in a way, as Daniels had this role in a previous incarnation. Jay Posner has Phil Simms urging Chargers fans not to panic. John Maffei takes a look at every baseball TV broadcast team around baseball in his column. Jim Carlisle says that the hype is not quite as strong this year for the high school football game between Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure which was shown on FSN last year. Tom Hoffarth has DodgerTalk host coming under fire in Los Angeles. He also has media overtime in his blog.