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.

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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.”