This Week’s Meme: YOU People Think The Colts Have No Chance!

Given the relative ease in which the Patriots have dispatched the Colts as of late, it might be easy for some to dismiss Indianapolis’ chances in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

This attitude is now being transferred to the region as a whole. Shows are being introduced and based on the strawman of “Are we taking the Colts too lightly? Are we assuming too much in just saying the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl?

Or as Steve Buckley closes his column today:

You? You probably think the Colts can’t win.
You should worry a little about that.

Of course, it matters not one bit how the fans and media view the Colts. It’s how the Patriots coaching staff and players view them, and they seem to be taking them seriously.

While Dan Shaughnessy has made his annual proclamations about the opponent on the radio and on television, he hasn’t yet put them into column form. It’s probably only a matter of time. Each of the past two seasons, he’s made a similar proclamation about the opponent, which has generated all sorts of attention for himself, and gotten him booked on all sorts of shows all over the country. (Usually where he ends up saying something like “I don’t know a ton about football.”)

As I’ve said before, it’s genius, really. We should be honored to be in the presence of a trolling master. He’s the Tom Brady, the Bill Belichick of trolling.

Catch all the Patriots stories today at PatriotsLinks.com.

Let’s get onto the top five links of the morning:

Reversal of fortune: Why Tom Brady finally could be poised to post big numbers in an AFC title game – Christopher Price looks at Tom Brady’s historical struggles in the AFCCG, and why this time could be different.

Pastrnak’s love of game shines through – Joe McDonald with a look at the Bruins rookie, who has sparked the team with his scoring.

New Red Sox scouting director on lookout for next Kevin Youkilis – Alex Speier with a look at Mike Rikard, who will seek to find gems in the lower end of the draft.

Brian Bannister joins Red Sox analytics team – Scott Lauber looks at the hiring of the former pitcher-turned-advanced-statistics-analyst.

Remade Celtics turn it up a notch – Steve Bulpett examines how the remaining Celtics are still playing hard despite the non-stop personnel movement around them.

Onto Another AFC Title Game.

After Saturday’s epic 35-31 win over the not afraid Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots are set to host the Indianapolis Colts this coming Sunday in the AFC Championship game. This will be the ninth time the Belichick/Brady duo has played in this game. In a bit of symmetry, yesterday’s Colts win over the Broncos meant that Peyton Manning has gone one-and-done nine times in his career.

The Patriots/Ravens game had a bit of everything you could want in a game, big plays on both sides, stirring comebacks, and razzle-dazzle trick plays, and controversy.

We hear a lot in certain circles about Tom Brady’s performances in the postseason, but this one will certainly go down as one of this best, despite a baffling interception which led to a Ravens touchdown just before the first half.

The biggest conversation following the game has been the Patriots use of an offensive formation in which the Patriots had just four true offensive linemen in the game, and made running back Shane Vareen an ineligible receiver. Ravens coach John Harbaugh was caught off guard by the play, and protested vehemently, coming onto the field and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The NFL has since stated that the formation was legal and all reporting requirements for the play were done correctly.

It didn’t stop the Ravens from complaining about it.

“They couldn’t just drive the ball down on us regular. They had to do something tricky,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said.

and

“They did a great job of running the tricks,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “They had to trick us to beat us.

That would be like the Patriots saying “The Ravens couldn’t beat us just rushing the passer regular. They had to disguise coverage and try to trick us.

Get all the Patriots coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

Hot Mess NFL Rulebook Strikes Again – Matt Chatham has a detailed look at the play, and uses it as an example to show how convoluted the NFL rulebook is.

Manning flames out, Patriots will face Colts – Tom E Curran wacks all the sports radio talking points about the Broncos going “all in” this season.

Announcers’ script sounded forced – Chad Finn looks at the awkward segment of NBC’s broadcast in which they showed Roger Goodell at the game and had Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth quickly review the Mueller report and praise Goodell.

TV guide for Oregon-Ohio State; Michaels, Collinsworth help out NFL – Richard Deitsch looks ahead to tonight’s College Football National Championship and also has more on the NBC script.

Boston Celtics Complete Three-Team Trade – Danny Ainge continues to wheel and deal and shuffle his roster. The team announced officially that they have traded Jeff Green to Memphis, and have received Tayshaun Prince and a future first round pick from Memphis, and also guard Austin Rivers from New Orleans. Rivers is expected to be traded again, on to the Clippers, where he will play for his dad, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

At some point I’d like the Celtics to trade for a player that might be worth keeping around, but other than possibly Jae Crowder, Ainge seems more focused on obtaining picks.

Catch up with the Celtics at CelticsLinks.com.

BREAKING: Ravens Are “Not Afraid” Of Patriots, Source Says.

If there has been any more recycled theme this week than “John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs and the Ravens are not afraid of the Patriots and of playing in Gillette Stadium.” I don’t know what it could be.

Great analysis, guys.

Is it just me, or has almost all the local “analysis” this week been about how the Ravens can beat the Patriots rather than how the Patriots can beat the Ravens?

(Eagerly awaiting the “you’re a admitted Patriots loyalist!” emails like the one that came yesterday.)

I, for one would like to hear just how the Patriots can beat the latest incarnation of the ’85 Bears that will be invading Gillette Stadium tomorrow. Yes, these Bears Ravens are NOT AFRAID of the Patriots. Have you heard that? I didn’t know that. I thought all teams were scared of the Patriots and just bowed before them.

It’s ridiculous. Moving on.

herald-usoc

The only thing worse is the amount of kvetching and whining about a possible Olympics in Boston for 2024, after the USOC picked us as it’s candidate to host the game. Guys, you’ve got nine years to figure out how to avoid the city that month. I think you can handle it.

Some links? OK, Five.

What if Bill Belichick said no? Meet Bob Kraft’s second choice, Gary Crowton – If I tell you who wrote this, you won’t click on it. But if I don’t tell you, and you click on it, you’ll probably be pissed at me. OK. It’s John Tomase. It’s a good story, with details I haven’t heard before, such as that Crowton was told by Bob Kraft that if they couldn’t get Belichick from the Jets, they would hire him. And that Crowton probably would’ve brought Chip Kelly with him. And that he wasn’t impressed at all with Tom Brady at the combine.

Facing playoff opponent for first time doesn’t faze Patriots – The Patriots haven’t played the Ravens yet this season. Alex Speier looks at whether that means anything for tomorrow.

Darrelle Revis covers all the bases – Jackie MacMullan with a feature on the well prepared cornerback.

Rob Gronkowski able to join fun – Karen Guregian has the All-Pro tight end looking to make a healthy contribution to a postseason for the Patriots.

ESPN was a ratings hit during a sad week – Chad Finn looks at a record week for the cable giant, and also has some criticism for Mike Felger for the Pedro Martinez allegations earlier this week.

Is There A Tipping Point To Sports Media Trolling?

Tom Brady and Pedro Martinez have brought New England sports fans some of their greatest moments over the last 17 years or so. Pedro was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, and Brady is already a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame whenever it is that he decides to hang it up.

In the span of four hours this week, the achievements, integrity and character of both stars was openly brought into question by the top rated show on local sports radio.

The accusations are veiled under the disingenuous the guise of “Hey I’m just asking the question,” but in reality there is no attempt here to “speak the truth”, as some lackeys of the show would claim. There is no claim of actual knowledge by the hosts – that would take actual work and effort – and they are even too cowardly to make an direct accusation.  The one and only object is to lob innuendo-loaded bombs over the fan base to rile them up, and then sit back and laugh and collect a paycheck.

It was suggested – though in reality portrayed as fact – that both Martinez and Brady benefited from from performance-enhancing drugs. In addition, Brady was called a “prima donna” and the image of Martinez is that of a punk.

The show continues to gather huge ratings. My question is why?

Is this enjoyable? To whom?

At what juncture do we reach a tipping point, where the trolling and negativity just becomes weary? We clearly haven’t reached that point yet, and I’m not sure we’re even close.

It may actually take a few years of all of these teams actually being as bad as they are portrayed to be for this to wind down. If the Patriots are actually 4-12, week after week of saying how much they suck might be as grating to the same people who currently make that claim about week after week of saying that a 12-4 team is good. (Which in reality isn’t happening now, despite claims that it is.)

It used to be fun to listen to sports radio during the week-long buildup to big games. Now it is something to be avoided at all costs by the true fan.

At this point, there are really only 2 1/2 local shows that I would recommend listening to with any regularity. Dennis and Callahan and Minihane can be very good when the topic is actual sports, not hotsportztakes. The best thing Kirk Minihane has done has made me like Gerry Callahan again. Minihane has taken over the full-time contrarian role, allowing Callahan to just be the guy who actually likes sports and the local teams.

Gresh and Zo are the best program on the air locally for Patriots and NFL talk. They are definitely worth a listen. Dale and Holley is the other show that I recommend. People tend to hate on Dale, which I don’t fully understand. They can be critical of the local team without purposefully dumping on them just for attention. They work well together, and add Jerry Thornton to this show was the best fit for him.

Inevitably, I’ll get the “Oooooh, you just want the media to be positive all the time about the teams, Bruce.” comments, tweets and emails from the select few who send me that same crap all the time.

That notion is ridiculous. I have no issue with legitimate criticism of the local teams. There is certainly enough of it to go around, despite all the winning that has taken place around here.

I draw the line at local hosts impugning the character and achievements of Hall of Fame athletes simply to rile people up and draw attention to themselves. It’s shameful.

But it’s not going away anytime soon.

TiqIQ: Patriots Tickets Down More Than 35% From Last Playoff Game Against Ravens

For the past 18 weeks, the Patriots have comfortably cruised along the desolate highway of the AFC East, thwarting imposters like the Bills and Dolphins and subjecting the CYO-League Jets en route to their sixth consecutive divisional title. The switch behind the steering will be pushed off and the Patriots likely forced back down to earth come Saturday, however, as they ready to welcome the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Divisional Round Game at Gillette Stadium.

A brewing rivalry has formed between the two teams in recent years. Dating back to the 2010 postseason, the Pats and Ravens have met three times in January and have traded wins in each affair. If trends hold true to Saturday’s matchup, it’s the Patriots who are due to advance and play either Denver or Indianapolis next week. Focus remains on exposing Baltimore’s weak secondary on Saturday at home first, where Patriots tickets on the secondary market are the cheapest for a postseason game between the teams past the Wild Card Round in the last five seasons.

Patriots vs Ravens tickets on TiqIQ now own an average secondary price of $332.82, which is 35.2% cheaper than 2011’s AFC Championship Game’s average of $514.29 and 37.2% cheaper than 2012’s AFC Championship Game’s $530.78 average, both of which were also played in Foxborough. Only the Wild Card Game at the conclusion of the 2009 season was cheaper, where average price for the January 10, 2010 game was $205.25. Get-in price for Saturday’s game is currently listed at $130.

While each team takes one step closer to this year’s Super Bowl festivities in Arizona, the Patriots will have Rob Gronkowski on hand in a playoff game for the first time since 2011’s Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The 25-year-old tight end has played an integral role on New England’s thriving offense this season and has risen to superstardom following a series of arm and leg injuries that sidelined him significantly in 2012 and 2013. He’ll serve as one of the many threats the Patriots will display on the field this weekend, with Tom Brady hoping to rid the naysayers who believe he’s playing in his swan song season.

Baltimore won’t be that easy to get rid of, however. The Ravens struggled in the secondary this season and fishing a disappointing 23rd in the league in pass defense, but the rush defense was elite and ranked 4th in the league. Joe Flacco will look to counter the Patriots with his offensive rush as he gives Justin Forsett the ball, who rushed for 1,266 yards this season and scored eight touchdowns.

With ticket prices at their cheapest since 2010’s Wild Card Game, the Patriots will look to find holes in a streaking Ravens team this Saturday. A win would solidify a spot in the AFC Championship Game, which would be played in New England if the Patriots defeat the Ravens. Expect Brady and Gronkowski to link up and exploit Baltimore’s defensive weakness while Joe Flacco relies on Forsett to take his team to their third AFC Championship Game in the last four seasons.

The Media And That “Wacky” “Jokester” Terrell Suggs #NoMore

During Saturday night’s NFL Wild Card playoff game between the Ravens and Steelers on NBC, you could hear Cris Collinsworth signing the praises of Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. In addition to praising his play on the field (which was sensational) Collinsworth also referred to Suggs as a “jokester” off the field at one point.

During commercial breaks, NBC (and all networks carrying the games) are running NFL PSA spots on domestic violence under the slogan NO MORE.

This week, Suggs will be in demand from many in the media as they hope to get juicy quotes from him in the run up to Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the Patriots. They’ll laugh at his proclamations and say how great he is. They’ll call him “Sizzle” and the Ravens notoriously tone-deaf Twitter account will continue to deify him.

Meanwhile, “Sizzle” is playing in the NFL despite having a much worse track record in the domestic violence department than former teammate Ray Rice, who lost his job this season following a well-publicized disgusting incident at a casino in which he knocked out his then-fiancee.

Back in September, Josh Levin in Slate had a column entitled Why Is Terrell Suggs Still in the NFL?

Dennis and Callahan and Minihane spent a good deal of time this morning going over the details in this column, specifically the 2009 incident in which Suggs pinned his then-girlfriend, now wife to the floor and poured bleach over her and their son.

    When she turned around, according to her complaint, he knocked her to the ground and sat on top of her, grabbing her neck and holding an open bottle of bleach over her.

Williams wrote that Suggs used an obscenity and said he was going to “drown [her] with this bleach.”

She put her hands over the cap, but the cleaner spilled onto her and their son, she wrote. He then told her to get out of the house, dressed and left for the game, she wrote.

She also reference a history of previous incidents. Over the next few years there were at least two protective orders filed against Suggs. In 2012, Suggs was ordered to hand over his seven guns, including an AK-47 after the following incident:

Terrell Suggs’ longtime girlfriend claimed in a protective order filed last month that the Ravens’ Pro Bowl outside linebacker punched her in the neck and drove a car containing their two children at a “high rate of speed” while she was being dragged alongside.

The Levin article shows that no action was ever taken by the NFL despite their assertion that they would “look into it.”

Despite this history, Suggs continues to be popular with many in the media, who run to him for quotes and look forward to what he’s going to say next.

Not all media seem to be as enamored with Suggs and how he is regarded, especially by those in Baltimore:

It’d be refreshing if some might actually use their influence and position in the media to tamper down the glorification of such a man. Are they afraid of him?

If Dan Shaughnessy is actually the bravest columnist around, as his boss claims he is, maybe he can ask Suggs why he is free to play in this game while Ray Rice sits at home unemployed, and Greg Hardy (whose history is very similar to Suggs) sits out while the Panthers head to Seattle this week.

If Shaughnessy wants to make himself a national story as he often does, this is the perfect opportunity for him. He won’t though. He loves Suggs, as evidenced by this line in his column today: Wacky Terrell Suggs loves to get in the face of Brady…

Yeah, wacky. That wacky, jokester Terrell Suggs.

I’m sure Shaughnessy would rather sit back and take shots at the likes of the menacing Rajon Rondo instead anyway.

********

A few media items:

Inside ESPN’s tribute to late SportsCenter star Stuart Scott – Richard Deitsch looks at the ESPN staffers who worked on the tribute they hope would never air to the iconic anchor who passed away from cancer yesterday at the age of 49.

ESPN feels the loss of Stuart Scott – Chad Finn looks at the heartfelt tributes from Scott’s colleagues.

Stuart Scott’s Legacy is Far Greater Than Just Memorable Catchphrases – Finn also blogged about Scott and his legacy.

Rondo Returns, 2015 A Fresh Start For John Tomase?

Rajon Rondo returns to the TD Garden tonight for his first game against the Celtics, following his trade last month to the Dallas Mavericks.

Celtics set to welcome Rajon Rondo back to Boston – Mark Murphy has former teammates emotional to see Rondo again.

Rondo’s return makes for emotional night for Celtics – A. Sherrod Blakely has more from the current Celtics.

C’s in for a bittersweet reunion – Jackie MacMullan has the good and bad on Rondo, including his lack of defense while with the Celtics.

Rajon Rondo’s return: One last gasp for the ignorant – The best Rondo column today might be from John Tomase.

Yes, John Tomase. I was all ready to go scorched-earth this morning after his WEEI debut column yesterday entitled I’m Not Here To Be A Fan.

To me, the title just hits all the wrong notes as a reader. Regardless of what the column inside says, when you declare yourself to not be a fan, the implication is that being a fan is a lower form of life. When you even jokingly make reference to footie pajamas, and then cite among your role models as a writer Ron Borges and Kirk Minihane, it doesn’t bode well. (and no, John, we don’t “love to hate” them. We just hate them.) When you humblebrag about some of your takedowns in the past (like on Manny Ramirez) and fail to mention at all the one thing you are most known for in your career, it seems just…dishonest. How can you “introduce” yourself to your audience without addressing that?

Even if this bit is encouraging:

And so I will never, ever write something I don’t believe, or play the contrarian just because. Most attempts at “hot takes” end up tepid, brackish and tasting vaguely of urine. That’s not my scene.

It doesn’t ring true. Tomase is asking for a chance, but doesn’t tell us why we should believe anything he says.

It’s difficult, if not impossible to look past what was done in the past. If you or I did something that forced our employer to issue a public apology, would we still be employed there? Would we likely be able to even get a job in the same industry?

Media is funny. They demand accountability yet, people like Tomase, Borges, Mike Barnicle, etc etc, are all able to move on, get new and better jobs, and pretend that what they did never happened.

Many of you will not be able to move on. I’ve gotten many comments, tweets, emails, from those who say they will never read anything Tomase writes again. I understand that point of view. I largely agree with it.

I’m willing to monitor Tomase for a bit though, and see how things go with this new role. Even that is not easy for me to do with any sort of bias creeping in. It’s a new year though, so maybe, just maybe I can give it a shot.

***************

A few other top links:

ESPN finally gets a shot at NFL playoff broadcast – Chad Finn writes about ESPN making their NFL postseason debut with tomorrow afternoon’s broadcast of the Panthers and Cardinals at 4:35pm.

For the Bruins, it’s now win or go home – Joe Haggerty looks at the current state of the Bruins.

Bruins hoping for happier New Year – Joe McDonald has more on the Bruins trying to turn things around in the new year.

Right balance of player ages give Red Sox better chance in 2015 – Also making his debut in a new role is Alex Speier, who provides exactly the next-level type of analysis we’ve come to expect.

Dont’a Hightower lives up to number, Pats’ LB lineage – I enjoyed this piece from Jeff Howe yesterday on the third year Patriots linebacker.

Wayback Machine: Felger and Mazz Talk the ’86 Celtics

(Thanks to long-time BSMW member Div for capturing this.)

Set the wayback machine to December, 1985….

….they have locations at Downtown Crossing and the Meadow Glen Mall. So, when you’re looking to put fashion first, go to Tello’s. You’ll look the part.

MF: OK, we’re back Tony, and it’s time to get to last night’s debacle.

TM:I couldn’t believe my eyes Mike.

MF: If you’ve been living in a cave, YOUR Boston Celtics last night took the gaspipe on the parquet to the Portland Trailblazers….yeah, you’re hearing me right….a mediocre Portland team walked into the Boston Garden and annihilated them.

TM: It is very concerning Mike.

MF: And all of you pom-pom wavers can’t blame this one on Larry Bird’s back…he played most of the game…at least until it was clear they had been blown out.

TM: They just sucked Mike.

MF: Really bad night for the confetti mafia…let’s go to the phones. Steve from Fall River..what do you got?

Yeah, thanks Felgie. Coupla points. You know, they drafted this kid Sam Vincent. I saw a game last year when he was on Michigan where he scored 31 points. He was unstoppable. Why don’t they put him in as the starter when you can tell DJ doesn’t have it. I mean, with DJ, you know right away when he’s on and he just wasn’t on last night. Of course, KC Jones would rather be playing piano than coaching the team. Why can’t we see what this kid Vincent has got?

MF: Thanksforthecall Steve. Well, I think that’s obvious Tony. First of all, you and I both know that DJ wouldn’t like that.

TM: Oh no, Mike…that’s for sure.

MF: We keep hearing about how Dennis is a changed man, Dennis is a good teammate…but if they tried anything like that, we’d see “West Coast Dennis” faster than Clyde Drexler running down the parquet last night.

TM: We all know that’s what would happen but Celtics’ fans think that the Green grows on trees Mike.

MF: And as far as Sam Vincent goes Tony, he was a GREAT college player.

TM: I never saw him play Mike.

MF: Me neither Tony, but he averaged over 20 points last year. This year he’s averaging 2!

TM: They can’t develop young players Mike. Greg Kite, Darren Tillis, Michael Young.  A bunch of no-name stiffs Mike.

MF: They’re the worst team in the NBA at drafting and developing players and it isn’t even close Tony. How are YOU going to keep up with the Lakers if they find a key player in the draft every year while YOU brick every pick YOU make?

TM: They’ve lost ground Mike. It’s OK to admit it.

MF: John in Wakefield –what do you have for us?

Hi Felgie – love the show. Boy, that loss last night was pathetic. They looked old and slow. Parish especially…how many years to think he has left? I’m just concerned with Walton’s injury history and Parish’s age that they’re going to get rolled over by Kareem in the finals.

MF: John – thanksforthecall. There’s another guy Tony. Robert Parish. I mean, he clearly doesn’t want to be here.

TM:The next time he smiles will be the first time all season Mike.

MF: What you need to understand about Robert Parish is that he is a mercenary. He plays basketball as a career, but he’s not someone that truly loves the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his last year Tony. He’s not a guy that will be playing into his 40’s.

TM:You’re absolutely right Mike. And then you have a crippled Bill Walton and Greg Kite as your center, and Greg Kite sucks!

MF: 90SecondsAndASportsFlash….Beetle?

Thanks Mike. The Red Sox finally dumped Mark Clear today in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for backup journeyman shortstop Ed Romero. Steve Kasper will be out for 7-10 days with an injured knee. The surprising 10-4 New England Patriots are getting ready for their biggest game in decades against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night in Miami. I’m Beetle Bertrand, and that’s a flash.

TM:The Patriots, oh please. They’re going to get killed.

MF: They haven’t won in Miami in what – a quarter century Tony?

TM:And it’s a Monday night game! They never win on Monday night! Heck, they’re lucky to be playing on Monday night. That game will be a reality check against a real team with a real coach Mike.

MF: I agree. Let’s go to Greg in Natick – Greg, what’s happening?

Nothing Mike…just wanted to talk a little bit more about the Celtics. They got exposed last night by a team full of ath-a-letes. They don’t have any athletes on the team. As the season goes on, this inevitably is going to happen more as this young, athletic teams run circles around them. This kid Jordan on Chicago seems like the kind of guy they could use; any chance Chicago would take Wedman and Sichting for him?

MF: Thanskforthecall Greg. Tony – have you seen this kid Jordan play?

TM: No Mike – I’ve never heard of him. Is he new?

MF: Yes, Chicago drafted him a few years ago and he’s really coming into his own. He had 41 points a few nights ago against Indiana, and if the season ended today, we’d be playing Chicago in a 5 game series.

TM: Anything can happen in a 5 game series Mike.

MF: Don’t tell that to the parade planning, decked in green, footie pajama wearing Celtic fans Tony. They think they’re unstoppable. They’re going to pretend like last night didn’t happen.

TM:They didn’t get the right guys in the offseason Mike. I mean, Wedman, Sichting, Walton – they look like us!

MF: Tony, I had a guy confuse you and Sichting a few days ago. No offense, but when you can’t tell the difference between a professional basketball player and you, that can’t be good.

TM: You’re absolutely right Mike.

MF: We’llberightbackafterthiswordfromSomervilleLumber.

Arrogant Bill Finally Listens To Omniscient Media, Sits Gronk In Finale

FINALLY!

For once, Bill Belichick humbled himself and listened to the sport talk radio hosts and sat fragile tight end Rob Gronkowski in the season finale yesterday against the Buffalo Bills.

Now if he would just say things to the media like, I just want to apologize to everybody. I didn’t want to hold anybody up here today. or Thank you. Again I apologize for any inconvenience here. I hope I’ve taken care of everything for you.

Wait, what?

What is happening here? The Patriots coach must’ve been really been running a high fever yesterday or something.

The Patriots finished their season with a 17-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Having already wrapped up the top seed in the AFC last week, the Patriots sat many of their key players, including Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Browner and Dan Connolly. QB Tom Brady played the first half before giving way to Jimmy Garoppolo in the third quarter.

Get all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

The Patriots next game will be on Saturday, January 10th at 4:35pm on NBC.

A few Celtics/Bruins links from the last few days:

Kevin Garnett Talks Rondo Trade, Retirement, and His Appreciation of Boston – Brian Robb has the Big Ticket’s thoughts on Boston on perhaps his last visit here as an NBA player.

Pierce’s future plans include visiting Celts – Steve Bulpett has the former Celtics captain talking about his future with the club.

Crowder house: Newcomer looks to distinguish himself on C’s crowded roster – Chris Forsberg has Jae Crowder as perhaps the player from the Rajon Rondo trade most likely to stick long-term with the team.

Milan Lucic’s future with Bruins a difficult call – Fluto Shinzawa looks at what the next few years could hold for the bruising forward.

With Denver Loss, Patriots Back Into #1 Seed in AFC

The Patriots backed into the #1 seed in the AFC last night as the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.

It wasn’t anything the Patriots did, the other teams just collapsed and laid down, gifting New England the number one seed and home field advantage through the AFC playoffs.

OK. OK. Some people don’t like it when I play the role of certain sports media members before they get a chance to use the same hot takez.

The painful part of the next few weeks will be the focus on not how the Patriots can win their next game(s), but rather how they can lose them. I should be used to it by now, I guess.

Get all the Patriots coverage from PatriotsLinks.com.

If you’ve got time to kill today, I highly recommend a trip to Dan Shaughnessy Watch. Some great riffs on Dan’s Twitter feed.

Four links, one for each team:

Do the Red Sox really need to get an ace pitcher? – Paul Swydan in the Globe has a really interesting look at how Rick Porcello could actually rank among “ace” pitchers.

Film review: What happened to the New England Patriots offensive line versus New York Jets?  – Kevin Duffy looks at why the O-line struggled so much against the Jets.

Bergeron: Bruins need to stay hungry – Joe McDonald has the Bruins veteran speaking about his team needing a wake-up call.

New Celtic Jameer Nelson must adjust to lower expectations – Gary Washburn has the veteran point guard sounding thrilled to be here.