The local media covering the Patriots could be celebrating this morning, for many different reasons. A writer or two might be celebrating the fact that they personally liberated Charlie Weis from the evil Bill Belichick and personally got him a high profile coaching job. Of course, there’s not an ounce of truth to that theory, but they likely feel responsible anyway. Others are celebrating because the impending departure of Weis at the end of the season gives them almost unlimited speculative material. Every single day, every game, they can look at something and say “Are the Patriots distracted because of Charlie leaving?” “Will the Patriots suffer from Charlie trying to serve two masters?” Get used to it. The next two months you’re going to see and hear that topic beaten to death. This is not to say it isn’t a concern…of course it is…but not to the extent to which it’s going to be covered. But if any organization is capable of tuning out something like this, it’s the Patriots.

There was a football game in Foxboro yesterday, and the Patriots had some problems with the upstart Bengals, even though you never really had the feeling that the game was in danger. Michael Felger is the first to raise the “were the Patriots distracted by Weis” flag in a game story. Nick Cafardo says that except for three plays, the Patriot defense was awful. Tom E Curran writes that the Patriots once again showed the bend-but-don’t-break style of defense, and that Bill Belichick was not pleased after the game. Ian M Clark looks at the performance of Weis’ offense yesterday and speculates on possible replacements. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots escaping yesterday and coming out of it with a playoff berth. Michael Parente looks at the Patriots continuing their roll. Scott A Benson reviews the action from Gillette yesterday and tips his cap to Charlie Weis. Chris Kennedy looks at the Patriots winning the game, and the division.

Michael Felger looks at the details of the Charlie Weis deal with Notre Dame. Jackie MacMullan writes that the Patriots are losing a big part of their braintrust with the departure of Weis, and that he will be sorely missed. Mike Reiss looks at the questions that will be raised with the departure of Weis, and how it will affect the Patriots. Tim Weisberg looks at the hush around the Patriots regarding Weis. The other story of the day yesterday was Corey Dillon facing his old teammates. New Globie Fluto Shinzawa says Dillon is just thrilled to be in the playoffs for the first time in his career. Paul Kenyon looks at Dillon making a vow not to say anything negative about the Bengals. Alan Greenberg has more on Dillon’s deal with Mavin Lewis about the situation. Dan Pires says that Dillon has truly moved on from Cincinnati, as he has been reborn here and is loving life. Steve Buckley (subscription only) also has a piece on Dillon and how he isn’t providing the media with any juicy subplots to the season, he just wants to play football and win games.

Kevin Mannix looks at the performance of Tom Brady yesterday, who after being “barely average” (his exact words) the last two weeks, was back at his best yesterday. Michael Vega also looks at the performance of Brady, including a completion from the seat of his pants. When I saw that play, I just had one thought: Larry Bird. I’m not exactly sure why, but it just seemed to be the type of improvisational play you’d see from #33. Mike Reiss looks at Brady answering the criticism of his play from the last few weeks. Michael Gee (subscription only) wonders if Michigan alum Brady is going to be doing any recruiting for hated Notre Dame. Lenny Megliola looks at the Patriots refusing to get too excited over clinching a playoff berth and winning the AFC East again. Jim Donaldson looks at the two-way play of Troy Brown, who is now tied for the team lead in interceptions. Rich Thompson also has a look at Brown hurting the Bengals on both sides of the ball.

Gus Martins and Paul Kenyon look at the play of the Patriots tight ends with Daniel Graham out yesterday. Frank Dell’Apa looks at the Patriots getting turnovers at the key time. Dan Ventura and Garry Brown look at a key turnover yesterday, the interception and return for a TD by Asante Samuel. Michael O’Connor looks at the Patriots receivers stepping up with David Givens out after coming up lame prior to the game. Paul Harber looks at the play that knocked Bengals QB Carson Palmer out of the game. George Kimball (subscription only) says that the Bengals are still trying to shake their “lowly” reputation, but that moral victories are no longing acceptable in Cincinnati. Cafardo’s notebook looks at Tyrone Poole easing back onto the field yesterday. Felger’s notebook looks at the big game by Richard Seymour. Curran’s notebook has more on Brady’s pass from the ground. Parente’s notebook looks at the silence around the Charlie Weis to ND talk for the Patriots.

Bob Hohler and Michael Silverman look at the Pedro Martinez situation. Hohler reports that Pedro hopes to make up his mind today, while Silverman says it’s more likely to happen in the next 48 hours. Silverman says the Tim Hudson to the Dodgers deal hit a snag Sunday night, and that the Red Sox would much rather have Hudson than Pedro. Tony Massarotti urges the Red Sox not to overpay for Pedro and to try to move heaven and earth in attempting to pry Hudson from the A’s. Dom Amore looks at the status of the Pedro talks and the Edgar Renteria situation. Gordon Edes and Jeff Horrigan look at a quiet Winter Meeting session for the Red Sox and all of baseball. In that piece, Edes looks at the Sox interest in Carlos Delgado as well.

Adam Rubin of the NY Daily News reports that the Red Sox offered Manny for Cliff Floyd and the Mets turned it down. He says that Red Sox want to free up money to sign Delgado and Renteria. Hohler’s notebook looks at Peter Gammons being being awarded the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Horrigan’s notebook also has the award for Gammons, as well as a look at David Ortiz getting his shoulder checked out. I’d also like to express congratulations to Mr Gammons for his award. As someone who grew up on the Sunday Baseball Notes in the Globe, I’ve been a fan of his for a long time…

Shira Springer has a piece on the Celtics having some reasons for optimism after a win in Seattle Saturday night. Steve Bulpett looks at the emergence of rookie Tony Allen, who has seen his role on the club expand with some impressive play out West. Bulpett’s notebook has the Celtics hoping for some carryover from Saturday night.

FSN will have Celtics/Clippers at 10:30. ABC will have Chiefs/Titans at 9:00. ESPN2 has Temple/Wake Forest at 7:00.