Newly-Manned Pats Prepare For Ravens

A slow start in what has typically been one of the busiest periods on the Boston sports calendar, as the B’s reacclimate to the West, the Pats come off a week’s bye, and the Sox are on a much longer one. As Bruce is coming back tomorrow, I’m determined to get in one Randy-free Morning Links, but there’s a new kid in Foxborough so we’ll start there.

Patriots

Nine months later, visions of Ray Rice romping 83 yards still dance in the heads of Ian R. Rapoport and Jerod Mayo, as the Pats keep the pain fresh in preparing for the Baltimore Ravens’ visit to Gillette Stadium this Sunday. Joe Zarbano puts the Ravens atop the WEEI Power Rankings for the second consecutive week. And it doesn’t get any easier. Tom King feels there is only one game leading up to Thanksgiving in which the Pats will have a clear talent superiority. Dave D’Onofrio will take a 3-1 start, but has these next six games determining where the 2010 Pats are headed. Bob Ryan labels this a “House Money Year” that is not headed for the sidelines of Cowboys Stadium for Bill Belichick.

Ron Borges has Deion Branch coming back to new faces and a sprawling mall at Gillette. Despite the changes around him, Rapoport says Branch is the same person on the same team, just a different player in a different situation. Monique Walker has those things that have stayed the same being enough to excite Branch upon his return. Kevin McNamara has Branch wishing he’d never left New England. Mike Reiss thinks that having something end where it once began is not always a bad thing in football. However, the Pete Towshend Belly Factor is ruining this reunion for Jerry Thornton. With Branch for Moss, Jim Donaldson still has the Pats in the red on the plus-minus scale.

McNamara’s Patriots Journal is not surprised that offensive lineman Nick Kaczur was officially IR’d yesterday.

Celtics

The C’s started a stretch of four games in five nights with a 103-92 loss in Philly last night. Steve Bulpett has Doc Rivers liking the packed game schedule because it opens up more time for practice. As for last night’s loss, Evans Clinchy has the Shrek and Donkey duo of Glen Davis and Nate Robinson getting some extended minutes. A. Sherrod Blakely finds the C’s bench good enough to hang with the albeit bad 76ers starters for much of last night. Paul Flannery calls the C’s bench a bunch of misfits who flew under the radar because of what they couldn’t do and whose unique compensatory skills were overlooked.

Bulpett’s Celtics Notebook has neither Jermaine O’Neal nor Rivers frustrated by the former’s lack of offensive flow so far this preseason. Julian Benbow has O’Neal on the bat phone and looking for his missing offense. He still brings the D though. Chris Forsberg tells us that O’Neal and Davis will be pushing each other all season to take charges.

And to close on a self-gloss note, I have the C’s in a season-long battle with the Heat for Eastern supremacy and the chance for a rematch against the hated Lakers.

Bruins

After an 11-day European trip, Fluto Shinzawa has the B’s reacquainting themselves to a Stateside schedule before getting reacquainted with the ice. As Joe Haggerty points out, the Premiere series gave the B’s a unique bonding experience and it portends of great days to come next June.

Rich Thompson has Nathan Horton looking to fill a humbling gap in his resume this season. Despite some new offensive prowess, Douglas Flynn has the B’s not intending to part with the stingy defensive ways that brought them to the postseason last year.

Red Sox

Kevin Gray has New Hampshirites continuing to make steady inroads into MLB front offices, as Sox scout Allard Baird is a candidate for the Mets’ GM vacancy. Sean McAdam has Sox coaches Tim Bogar and DeMarlo Hale candidates for the Blue Jays managerial vacancy.

Gordon Edes recounts years when Theo was brilliant in maintaining an effective bullpen, and years when he failed, but 2010 was a case of total disintegration.

As always, it was a lot of fun hosting Morning Links this past week. Thanks for dropping by. Bruce will be back at the helm again tomorrow morning, ready to take you into the Branch II era at Gillette.

Everything Old is New Again

Last Wednesday, it was Randy Moss putting on a purple #84. Yesterday, it was Deion Branch coming back to New England.

Karen Guregian and Ian R. Rapoport team to say Branch’s chemistry with Tom Brady and knowledge of the offense made it time for this return to happen. Shalise Manza Young has things coming full circle since that somber day when Branch’s initial trade to Seattle was announced. Christopher Price has Branch’s arrival buying more time for younger receivers to develop within the Pats’ system. Mike Reiss thinks a fourth-rounder for Branch was a steep price tag but, hey, the Pats were rich in draft picks anyway. Tom E. Curran wonders if this wasn’t just some wish-list pickup to appease Brady.

Don’t look for many changes to the offense with Moss out and Branch in, as Guregian’s Patriots Notebook has Belichick and player personnel director Nick Caserio insisting they’ll be using the same playbook. Jeff Howe says Branch’s acquisition makes the Moss trade a bit more digestible. Guregian says Wes Welker will feel Moss’ absence the most.

Guregian also has Hairgate morphing from a Brady vs. Moss undercard to a Belichick vs. Charley Casserly main event. Young’s Patriots Notebook has Belichick no fan of Casserly.

Lee’s Patriots Notebook has RB Danny Woodhead impressive every time he has touched the ball. Michael Vega has offensive lineman Dan Connolly keeping to his meat-and-potatoes roots, even in trendy Boston restaurants.

And, oh yeah, there’s football this Sunday as the 4-1 Baltimore Ravens come to town. You won’t hear them talk about it, but Robert Lee bets payback is on Pats’ minds this week after the Ravens unceremoniously dumped them from last year’s playoffs. Reiss thinks the Pats are positioned to join the NFL’s elite this Sunday.

Celtics

Just a few player development pieces as we make our way through the preseason schedule, starting with an eager and restless Kendrick Perkins, who reminds Steve Buckley that most pro athletes want to be doing what they are gifted to do.

Mark Murphy brings us Marquis Daniels’ tireless work to expand his arsenal behind the three-point arc. Frank Dell’Apa has Nate Robinson now completely ready to be a Celtic. Chris Forsberg traces Stephane Lasme’s trans-global journey to the Celtics roster and a second chance in the NBA.

Murphy’s Celtics Notebook has KG schooling the new bigs, and Doc Rivers says they’d be wise to listen.

Odds & Sods

D.J. Bean has the Bruins returning from their 11-day European excursion richer from the experience. Tom Caron considers the trip overseas to be a success, due in large part to the Bereron and Chara extensions.

Joe Haggerty‘s bedroom walls must be covered with Taylor Hall Fatheads, as the maiden version of his Power Rankings put Edmonton at #2 and the B’s considerably further down the list. Get over there and give him hell.

In his blow-by-blow account of last night’s Jets win over the Vikings, Kirk Minihane says it just wouldn’t be a Brett Favre game without him throwing a game-ending pick-six. And Michael Felger went all the way to the New Meadowlands last night to find for himself this mysterious safety always over the top of Moss. Needless to say, his search was fruitless.

Tomorrow is cross-over day and Morning Links may be a bit late. Be patient, and, as we advise every day, check back here for the latest on breaking events on the field, on the air, and in the press.

Bruins Open With Czech Split

We’ve got a four-sport edition to kick off your Columbus Day morning, but only one team played any meaningful games this weekend, so the B’s draw the lead-off spot.

Bruins

Some bad news and then some good news this weekend, as the B’s fell to the Phoenix Coyotes in their season-opener in Prague, 5-2, on Saturday, but came back strong with a 3-0 win yesterday. After some terrible play in the opener, Stephen Harris labels yesterday’s victory a textbook showing of aggressiveness behind a 29-save shutout for Tim Thomas. Douglas Flynn calls it a case of old and new stepping up, as Thomas records his 18th career shutout and both Nathan Horton and rookie Tyler Seguin lit the lamp. Kevin Paul Dupont says that for all the puck-chopping in Saturday’s loss, yesterday will be remembered for improved puck management. Mary Paoletti marvels at the difference 19 hours can make.

James Murphy has Thomas sending notice to the hockey world that his hip is fine after offseason surgery. D.J. Bean is already rethinking his goals prediction for the rejuvenated Horton, who netted two in Saturday’s loss and another one yesterday. Mike Cole has former teammate Stephen Weiss saying Horton has the talent to be among the league’s best. Harris’ Bruins Notebook recounts Seguin’s first NHL goal.

Joe Haggerty says those days of goal-scoring sinkholes are gone, as the Black and Gold are rolling out some offensive firepower this season. Harris’ Bruins Beat calls the B’s well nigh unbeatable when they play with an identity and confidence.

It looks to Dupont’s Bruins Notebook that Blake Wheeler is ready to mix some grit into his tool kit.

Celtics

The lively experiment that is this Celtics preseason continued yesterday, with the C’s downing the Toronto Raptors, 91-87, at TD North. Kevin McNamara has Doc Rivers’ decision to pull back on his starters paying off in this win. Paul Flannery thinks things have been working out just fine in Doc’s master plan of letting the second unit close games out.

Mark Murphy credits the C’s bench, led by Marquis Daniels, for delivering yet again yesterday afternoon. Evans Clinchy has last year’s tentative Daniels replaced by this new go-to version following some big fourth quarter buckets against the Raptors. A. Sherrod Blakely has Jermaine O’Neal exhibiting the defensive-minded, shot-blocking skillset that made him so coveted this summer. Chris Forsberg‘s Postgame Notes has more on Jermaine’s defense and Shaq’s Garden debut.

Bob Ryan revels in this fourth season of the three-year window for a championship, courtesy of a 94-second span in Game 7 that left us all a bit soured. Murphy has Nate Robinson no longer needing old Knick plays inserted into the C’s offense for him. Dan Duggan has Stephane Lasme playing for a locker.

Patriots / Red Sox

As we hit the quarter-pole, it’s been an action-packed season for Ian R. Rapoport so far, both on and off the field. Timing is everything, as Robert Lee has the Pats’ bye week coming at the perfect time.

You know we’re in a bye when hair disputes become newsworthy. Rapoport brings the Randy Moss camp’s denial over his alleged hair tiff with Tom Brady. Bathed in purple, Nick Cafardo has Moss feeling the love in Minnesota, and not wanting people to think this thing can ever go sour. Jeff Howe has his ex-teammates in New England routing hard for Moss . . . tonnight. This piece by Christopher Price in which Brady’s personal passing mentor talks about the Moss trade’s effects on his protege broke on Saturday night, but it garnered some talk on the airwaves yesterday, so we’re bringing it to you this morning.

You may not see him on the field, but Mike Reiss has Shawn Crable making an impact in practice. Ryan is two-sporting it this morning as he looks behind the scenes as Ron Jaworski’s search for the seven games that have shaped today’s NFL.

Given the injuries to the Red Sox last season, Michael Silverman calls the bench play in 2010 a resuscitation order that worked to keep the team alive throughout most of the summer.

Brian MacPherson thinks Carl Crawford could be the next franchise-changing free agent, and believes the Sox may have the best chance to get him.

Odds & Sods

Things are ugly on The Heights, as Mark Blaudschen tells us where the Eagles are struggling after three increasingly embarrassing losses, the most recent on Saturday, 44-17, to North Carolina State.

John Shimer brings us some internatinal finance intrigue, as John Henry attempts to fold the Premier League’s Liverpool Reds into his New England Sports Ventures empire without crippling the franchise on the field in the process.

Finally, despite the pain involved, Rich Levine can’t stop paying attention to Brett Favre. Knock yourself out tonight, Rich.

Whether we’ve found you at home, on vacation, or at work this morning, have a great Columbus Day. May Randy torch Darrelle Revis and that Jets secondary tonight, and we’ll see you here again one more time tomorrow morning.