Are The Patriots True Contenders?

While we won’t know the complete answer, tonight’s game against the unbeaten New Orleans Saints down in the Superdome will go a long ways in telling us what we can expect in the long run from this Patriots team. The Patriots need a win tonight to stay in the hunt for the #2 seed and a first round bye. They need to show that they can win on the road. We’ll know a lot more about this team by midnight tonight.

Over on Patriots Daily, Greg Doyle gives us some first impressions of the Saints, while Dan Zeigarnik checks out his matchups of the week.

Adam Kilgore has the Patriots saying that they need to make a stand in this game. Karen Guregian says that this is a statement game for the Patriots. Shalise Manza Young says that despite what people in New Orleans may think, the Super Bowl is not tonight.  Rich Garven has New Orleans looking at this one as Mardi Gras in November. Andy Vogt says that the Patriots can take care of two the biggest gripes about themselves with a win tonight. Mark Farinella reminds us that the Superdome has a lot of memories for the Patriots, not all of them good. Tom E. Curran says that the Patriots are playing for more than just pride tonight.

Ian R. Rapoport gives us the top five determining factors for tonight’s game. Christopher Price gives us five things to watch for tonight. Monique Walker says that despite all the attention the offenses are receiving, the defenses of the two clubs could determine who wins this one. Brian MacPherson picks the Saints by two after looking at all the matchups. Jim Donaldson says that the Patriots don’t have a chance tonight. Scott Coen thinks the Patriots will win comfortably. Jonathan Comey says that the Saints are the 2007 Patriots reincarnated. Farinella though, says that these Saints play defense, too.

Bob Ryan says that with all the praise that Bill Belichick has dished out to the Saints in the last week, the Patriots are brave to just show up tonight. Ron Borges says that the Patriots and Colts have switched identities from earlier in the decade, the Colts are now the resourceful team that finds ways to win, while the Patriots are soft and can’t make the big defensive play when needed. Jim Donaldson says that this is also a defining moment for the Saints. Bill Burt says that the Patriots need Tom Brady to be the King in this must-win game.

Mike Reiss says that Junior Seau has made a huge impact on these Patriots without seeing much playing time. Young catches up with Ty Warren prior to the game. Garven looks at how good Drew Brees has been since joining the Saints. Glen Farley has a look at Isaiah Stanback, who hasn’t let setbacks stop his career. He also has ESPN hyping this one as the game of the year since last Monday night.

Jim McBride has tonight’s Patriots/Saints scouting report. The Herald staff puts together their own scouting report. The ProJo trots out their pregame analysis as well.

The Globe notebook has Drew Brees remembering Wes Welker’s first NFL training camp, with the San Diego Chargers. Rapoport’s notebook says that preparation for this one will continue right up to kickoff for the Patriots. Vogt’s notebook has Rob Ninkovich looking forward to his return to New Orleans.

Celtics

The Celtics got their road trip off to a good start with a 92-85 win over Dwyane Wade and the Heat in Miami. Kevin Garnett was 11-12 from the field with 24 points in the victory.

Gary Washburn notes that the Celtics clamped down defensively on the previously hot Michael Beasley and his Heat teammates in the fourth quarter. Mark Murphy has the Celtics applying just enough stinginess down the stretch to get the win. Jessica Camerato has KG enjoying a run of near-perfection the last two games. A. Sherrod Blakely has the Celtics picking up their fourth straight win last night.

Robert Lee says that there are still a lot of questions surrounding this Celtics team. Tim Weisberg wonders how Allen Iverson would look in green.

Washburn’s notebook looks at a rough weekend for Ray Allen, as the Celtics guard saw his young son hospitalized after taking ill Thanksgiving night. Murphy’s notebook has Rasheed Wallace planning on appealing his $30k fine for talking about the officials Friday night.

Misc

Alex Speier looks at the downsides for the Red Sox if they acquire Roy Halladay.

Rich Thompson has Michael Ryder delivering the goods for the Bruins on Saturday night. Kevin Paul Dupont looks at a late goal on Saturday night which nearly cost the Bruins a point in the standings. Joe Haggerty says that the Bruins need to make sure not to take any unneccessary risks with Patrice Bergeron.

Mark Blaudschun has the BC Eagles getting some rest after their 8-4 regular season.

Blaudschun also looks at how the Bowl Championship Series might fill its at-large slots.

  • Chris

    If there’s one thing we learned about the Patriots (and the Giants) in 2007, it’s this: flying under the radar is a GOOD thing. Even if the Pats lose tonight, I think it sets them up for the playoffs. Who will take them seriously? They’ll be seen as an easy mark. We had that vision of the G-men in 2007. I’d like to play that role this year.