So, Denver it is.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers dispatching the Bengals yesterday afternoon, that sends the Patriots to Denver to take on the Broncos next Saturday night at 8:00. Before we leap into all the Denver analysis, here’s a few items looking back at this past weekend’s Wild Card win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Michael Felger has his report card of the game, and despite only giving up three points, Felger believes the defense is still an area of concern for the Patriots. Christopher Price trots out his 10 Things We Learned from Saturday’s game. Tom E Curran says that there is still plenty of room for improvement for the Patriots. Ian Clark looks at some of the key numbers from the win over the Jaguars. Dan Pires says that the Patriots are clearly coming together and peaking at the right time, becoming once again that dominant force we’ve come to get used to around here.
Jerome Solomon has a look ahead to the Broncos, who will provide the stiffest challenge yet to the Patriots title hopes. John Tomase says that the Patriots will need to play a whole lot better this weekend if they expect to come out with a victory. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots getting a second shot at the Broncos.
Mike Reiss has 10 Things you need to know about the Broncos. Jim McBride in the Globe also has 5 things you need to know about the Broncos. Albert Breer identifies three areas where the Patriots need to improve sharply if they are to have a chance in Denver. Tom E Curran says that despite having a different look now then when they first faced the Broncos, the Patriots still have plenty of obstacles to overcome if they are to have a chance in Denver this weekend. Dan Shaughnessy says that the Patriots have what it takes to win this weekend, but he still manages a Red Sox/Grady Little reference in the column.
Karen Guregian feels that this is a good matchup for the Patriots, who have undergone a transformation on defense since facing the Broncos twelve weeks ago. Steve Britt says that the Patriots are ready to once again head out on the road for a playoff matchup. Barry Wilner of the AP notes that all four playoff games this coming weekend will be rematches of regular season games. Jim Donaldson asserts that no matter what happens the rest of this postseason, we should savor the run that the Patriots have given us, and truly appreciate the brand of football we’ve seen over the last five seasons. I think the point of Steve Buckley’s (subscription only) column today is to tell us that Boston is a two sports town, but that the Patriots serve really only to get us to Red Sox spring training. I think that’s his point, but I can’t really tell, he’s kinda all over the place…
Mike Reiss looks at Andre Davis embracing his new role as a special teams “gunner” on kick coverage. Tomase’s notebook says that the Bronco’s passing attack will present a stiff challenge to the Patriots secondary. Solomon’s notebook tells us that the Patriots will need to be road warriors if they hope to make it to Super Bowl XL.
Nick Cafardo has a look at Jake Plummer and the Broncos. He talks to an unnamed AFC defensive coordinator, who feels that the Broncos have the edge over the Patriots, who will be hard pressed to stop the playmaking ability of Plummer and overcome a great game plan from Mike Shanahan. If I had to guess as to the identity of the unnamed coordinator, my money would be on Jim Schwartz of the Tennessee Titans…always known to be media friendly. Tomase takes a quick look back at that October game between the Patriots and Broncos. You can check out the angles from Denver in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.
Bob Ryan reports on the Steelers defeating the Bengals, sending the Patriots to Denver next weekend. Ryan’s notebook looks at the crown around Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt after the game. It’s a sight you wouldn’t see around here, because as Ryan points out, Bill Belichick doesn’t allow his assistants to talk to the media.
The Patriots performance against Jacksonville seems to have caught the attention of some folks in Indianapolis as well. Bob Kravitz says that New England no longer seems ripe for the picking.
Michael Silverman notes that the Red Sox seem pretty comfortable with their roster as it is, and in no real hurry to make further changes. He notes that the Red Sox feel that Alex Cora’s infield smarts and feel for the game are better than anyone in baseball. I’m not sure how you make that distinction, but that’s how they feel. Gordon Edes says that the Red Sox will keep an eye out on the Miguel Tejada situation, even though the Orioles shortstop has rescinded his trade request.
Steve Bulpett looks at Doc Rivers trying to cure his Celtics of their turnover woes, which have really sunk Boston this season. Peter May looks back at the loss in Washington Saturday night, focusing much of his attention on Brian Scalabrine, who as summoned into the game with 21.9 seconds left. Tim Weisberg looks at Gerald Green getting sent out to the NBDL to get some game experience. He also has a number of other items from the Celtics and around the league.
Stephen Harris looks at the Bruins as they prepare to welcome Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks into the Garden tomorrow night. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell has Andrew Raycroft attempting to calm reports of a leg injury after having an MRI on his right leg yesterday. Mick Colageo examines the Bruins failure in philosophy this season.
Michael Vega and Steve Bulpett report on Boston College’s 60-58 loss to Georgia Tech last night. Jeff Goodman says that despite their 0-2 start in the ACC, coach Al Skinner has a versatile lineup in his Boston College roster. Bulpett looks at the rough road thus far for Boston College. Vega’s notebook looks at BC freshman guard Tyrese Rice missing the potential game winner.
FSN has Celtics/Mavericks at 7:30. ESPN has Cincinnati/UConn at 7:00 and Texas/Iowa State at 9:00. OLN has Blues/Avalanche at 9:00.