Wait, The Broncos Once Hired A Fired Coach From A Rival Team Midseason? Yup.

While the national and Denver (and some in New England) media continue their handwringing over the Patriots hiring Josh McDaniels (which they were in the process of doing before it was known they would play Denver) Lindsay H. Jones in the Denver Post points out that in 1989, Mike Shanahan was fired as coach of the Raiders mid-season and less than two weeks later, the Broncos hired him as QB coach – and there was no controversy about the move.

But the Patriots do it – legally – and it’s cheating. Got it. Twice. (as one reader put it, Woody Paige is Shaughnessy on PEDs)

Burden’s all on Brady – Karen Guregian and Kurt Warner speculate that the burden of carrying the Patriots and their awful defense may cause Brady to retire early. Does this apply to Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees as well? Will they get tired of carrying their team’s poor defenses and want to retire? This is just silly.

Broncos threw a curve – Greg A Bedard says that what Tebow and the Broncos showed against the Steelers makes them a tougher opponent this time around for the Patriots.

McDaniels about more than Broncos – Tim Weisberg says that the re-hiring of Josh McDaniels is so much more than just the Denver game.

Why the Patriots are Super Bowl bound – After telling us yesterday what a disaster it would be to lose to the Broncos, Kirk Minihane says that the Patriots are going to Indy.

Broncos’ best hope to stay in Tom Brady’s face – Ron Borges eagerly outlines how the Broncos can beat the Patriots.

Play by play – Amalie Benjamin has a mini-feature on Vince Wilfork and how he’s playing more than ever.

Marchand diary: On Canucks, critics – Bruins winger Brad Marchand writes in his ESPNBoston diary about his suspension and critics of his style of play.

Canucks anger B’s brass  – Steve Conroy has Bruins management with some harsh words towards the Canucks.

Celts’ Pietrus close to comeback – Scott Souza has Mickael Pietrus looking to make his Celtics debut tomorrow night against the World Champion Dallas Mavericks. More from Steve Bulpett.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds merit vote in ’13 – Is Michael Silverman just looking for attention?

Andrew Bailey and Jonathan Papelbon may not be all that different after all – Rob Bradford compares the new and former Red Sox closers.

Out of Bounds featuring Lou Merloni – Ryan Hadfield has his first WEEI.com podcast, and he talks to Lou Merloni about being an athlete and dealing with the Boston media. I’m told there are a few BSMW references within.

Why is the Local Media so Divided on the New England Patriots? – George Cain looks at the sharp contrasts in styles of coverage of the Patriots.

A fond farewell to a true gentleman of the business – I should’ve mentioned yesterday Kevin Paul Dupont’s Sunday tribute to his mentor and colleague, former Globe Bruins beat man Fran Rosa, who passed away last week at the age of 91.


Patriots/Broncos II On Tap For Divisional Weekend

So it will be the Patriots and Broncos on Saturday night to play for a spot in the AFC Championship Game.

I’m undecided at the moment what path sports radio and TV will take here. Do they talk all week about how there is no way the Patriots can lose this game, while secretly hoping that they in fact DO lose the game, and thus go to a new level in being able to criticize, or do they talk all week about what if the Patriots lose, and what an disaster/indictment that will be on the franchise. Either way, it’s no-lose for them.

You can be assured though, that at least nationally, the Josh McDaniels hiring will be ridiculously over-hyped, even though his presence will have little impact on this week’s preparation or results. The Denver Post insists that Broncos, playoff teams should officially protest Josh McDaniels hire in New England.

All the Pats have to do is hire away Steve Scarnecchia from Syracuse and the whole cheating gang gets back together.

I told you we’d see Tebow again – Hector Longo takes credit for calling this in November. Though at the time, he said it would be in the AFC Championship game.

Tebow, Broncos best possible result for Patriots – Tom E Curran (who called the Broncos upset) says that this worked out for the best for the Patriots. (Didn’t we say that last year too?)  Jonathan Comey says that “the old adage “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it” is officially in play.” Karen Guregian tells us why this is the ideal matchup for the Patriots.

 Wild horses – Greg A Bedard says that the Broncos will be better prepared for a rematch with the Patriots.

Quick-hit thoughts on Pats-Broncos – Mike Reiss offers some thoughts on the matchup.

Critics are misguided, O’Brien making the right move – Michael Muldoon, who has known Bill O’Brien for nearly 30 years, explains why Penn State is a great move for the Andover native.

Phones ring for Patriots brain trust – Here’s a question, if the Patriots SUCK so much at drafting and free agent signings, why are their front office people still in demand around the league?

Filling in has been fulfilling – Julian Benbow has castoffs Sterling Moore and Antwaun Molden finding homes in New England.

Brad Marchand defends self – Stephen Harris has the Bruins winger expecting a suspension, but says his hit was just self-preservation.

Wilcox hopes to overcome early struggles – A. Sherrod Blakley has the Celtics most expensive free agent signing talking about his struggles adjusting to the Celtics. Chris Forsberg has more.

On offense, it’s Garnett’s move – Gary Washburn has Kevin Garnett slow to embrace Doc Rivers urging to get more involved with the offense.

New guy Andrew Bailey ready to roll – Scott Lauber catches up with the new Red Sox closer. More on Bailey from Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson.

Friday Media Links

A minor family emergency (is there such a thing) took me out yesterday, and will cut today short as well. Here’s the media links from today.

Jaffe is getting lots of ice time – Chad Finn has a look at NESN analyst Billy Jaffe and his crazy schedule.

Boston Sports Radio Fall Ratings: WEEI Strikes Back, But Still Lagging – George Cain has a look at the fall radio book, and a show-by-show look at both WEEI and 98.5 The SportsHub.

Media Roundup: NBC Sports Takes The NFL To The Internet – In my SB Nation Boston Media column, I’ve got a look at NBC’s online streaming of their NFL Wild Card doubleheader on Saturday.

Pats Pregame Points: Playoff Bye Week – Chris Warner has some thoughts for the bye week.

Friday’s Viewing Picks – Ken Fang runs down the sports broadcast schedule for today.

Morning Links, “Storified.”

Note: I experimented this morning using Storify to see what the layout would look like. As you can see below, it’s not perfect. You might see scroll bars, or the content may not load completely. I would just suggest reloading the page if it doesn’t work immediately.

If the content below isn’t showing up at all, or if you’re getting annoying scroll bars, click here to go to the full-size page on Storify.com:

Settling In For The Bye Week

With the bye week on us, there are a number of different approaches being taken to coverage. Here is a look at what is out there this morning:
http://storify.com/bruceallen/settling-in-for-the-bye-week.js?header=false&sharing=false&border=falseView the story “Settling In For The Bye Week” on Storify]

“Cap is Crap” And Other Felger Fallacies

I received this email from Dave Formato this morning, and felt it too good not to share. Thanks Dave!

I found a tweet by Jane McManus yesterday be very revealing as it pertains to our very own sports talk radio personas (mostly one Michael Felger). Now to be honest, I generally like him as a whole (more so back in the day) as he was one of the few reporters who gave the Patriots props when Bill Belichick was making moves that the establishment (Ron Borges, Kevin Mannix and Nick Cafardo) couldn’t stand. However, I believe that to become more contrarian, and get more “street” cred on the radio and TV, he has taken on more of their type of persona in the past five or so years, to the point where he is indistinguishable from all of them (it really is a shame, he was very good when he was a beat writer). Even Tom E. Curran (another favorite of mine) has started with some of that contrarian nonsense this year with the Patriots defensive struggles. Anyway, I digress. Here is Jane’s Tweet:

[blackbirdpie id=”153942734703558658″]

Anyway, to my point: The Boston sports media for the past few years have been all over the Patriots’ (Belichick in particular) front office for the lack of ability to build a team that can win the Superbowl during Brady’s last few “prime” years. Mainly because “they are cheap and only want to draft low round guys and “coach them up” so they don’t have to pay big bucks”. Furthermore, with the recent “success” of the New York Jets and Super Bowl appearances for the Colts, many have come to beat the following horses to death:

  • “The Patriots trade down way too much to find “Value” and don’t know how to draft and pick free agents since Scott Pioli left..Belichick needs a contrarian voice in the room since he is a dictator, etc, etc…”
  • “The league has passed Belichick the GM by, he doesn’t get the new way to manage a roster, and go and get stud players at every skill position, look at WR, OLB and DB, etc. etc…
  • AND my favorite from Felger..” The Patriots always claim “cap jail” issues and “value” when drafting and signing free agents and the JETS go out and get whomever they want whenever they want and don’t worry about any of that stuff, because the cap isn’t real (“Cap is Crap“) and it is a fabrication of the Patriots to their fans to justify being cheap… (or some variation thereof…).

As a fan, this nonsense makes me sick, but objectively, I’ve always had issues with this stuff on two fronts. And with the quote above and the recent events with both teams, I feel we’ve come full circle and these facts should be pointed out and the media (Felger) called out on it. So, I figured you are the perfect guy to do it with your forum and the fact that you’ve always been a voice of reason and perspective with this stuff.

First, There are three reasons, in my opinion for the “bad drafting” the Pats have done.

Number one, I think that the drafts from 05-08 (Pioli left in Jan 09, so that draft was all Belichick) were actually their worst during BB’s tenure (While Pioli was still here). I took the liberty of pasting the 05-11 drafts for the PATS (and JETS/Colts for comparison) at the end of this email so you can see the results. If you look at the Jets/Colts, they have had their share of misses too, and I’d dare say those misses have had a bigger impact on those teams because they’ve made less picks during that time and the misses were high in the draft in some cases)

Two, They were always drafting at or near the bottom of every round from 2001 on (unless they made trades to get other teams higher picks). Tell me; if BB had a top 10 pick every year in that time, the roster wouldn’t be stocked with studs like the Jets always seem to go and “get”.

And three, they were somewhat of a victim of their success. The three Super Bowl titles created legends on the roster that got old or too expensive or both in 2006-2009 (i.e.: Bruschi, Vrabel, Brown, Law, Seymour, etc…) The problem with that is they were never going to flat-out cut some of these “ICONS” and because of that, they probably had them on the roster a year or two longer than they would have if they were just running a team in a vacuüm. You are seeing that to some extent this year with Kevin Faulk. If he were any other guy, he would have been cut after the PUP deadline and maybe Dowling would be back on the field, but if they cut him, that would have been a PR nightmare. Now, I’m not saying that any of this is wrong, however, the issue is roster spots and how limited they really are, I.E, were any of the ’05 or ’06 draft picks really going to earn roster spots on the team anyway because they really didn’t have that many up for grabs due to the log jam up top. So you draft these guys and end up having to either cut them OR cut Bruschi, it was a no win situation. Which is a big part of the reason they traded away a bunch of picks for the likes of Welker and Moss, they didn’t have the roster spots to keep those multiple picks if they made them, so what was the point in keeping them in the first place?

Second issue: If you look at the ’09-’11 drafts, the amount of pics is very high for a reason, which is obvious to me, but never gets any mention on the radio because that would refute their argument (of BB is cheap and doesn’t like to pay high prices for big time players): The Patriots were in process of turning over their “old” roster, so they needed to make a bunch of pics to fill a bunch of roster spots, duh…. Plus, I believe that Belichick has realized that, other than a handful of “sure-fire” picks each year, you just don’t know how these KIDS are going to work out, even the high picks (Vernon Gholston/Jerry Hughes anyone?! (both of whom the MEDIA wanted the PATs to take BTW).

So in one sense, you are much better off with throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. Now that has its downside too, i.e. in 2006 and 2009 when not a lot of it “stuck” so you have a hole in the roster and a bad draft that year, which has hurt the Patriots, no doubt. However, when you hit on it, like in 2010, most of it “sticks” and the Patriots have a 13-3 record in 2011 to show for it from that draft class.

Now, all the trading down on draft day makes me crazy too sometimes, but if they can swing getting extra guys/picks in future years out of it, isn’t that the best formula for long-term success? I think that Belichick is using the “three Superbowls won” capital he has built up with the fans to shift from the “win now to keep my job” mentality most NFL coaches and GMs have to a “build a long-term program so as to protect my legacy” mode. Who can blame him, PLUS, in doing that, he is actually looking out for his bosses best interests (Robert Kraft) and making his NFL franchise a perennial contender, which puts areses in the seats and pays the bills. So he is actually doing exactly what he is being paid to do, in my opinion.

However, to get to my original point: Felger (among others) has been on this three-year rant about how the JETS (and Colts to a lesser extent) have found a new and “better” way to build a perennial Superbowl contender while drafting high and paying for high-priced free agents, which gets you a top-heavy roster of “stud” players and who cares about the backups, etc. All of this with no cap ramifications and no downside to getting the best players and paying them big money.

According to the above quote, however, it seems that isn’t working out so hot for the JETS right about now and how did it work out for the Polians and Colts this year?! Belichick had learned a LONG time ago, being healthy is one of the biggest key’s to winning a Superbowl, BUT, it rarely ever happens. So, the way you combat that is to have depth at key positions so when the inevitable injuries start to come, you have players that can produce at a “serviceable” level to maintain your competitive nature and hopefully get some breaks along the way to win the whole thing.

This is the reason the Patriots go 11-5 without Brady AND why they are a contender year in and year out, even while “rebuilding” like they were doing the past three years and the Colts completely implode when Manning goes down. Think about this for a minute, over the past 11 years, Belichick has essentially turned over this roster and still managed to win the Superbowl three times while winning 13 games in five of those years, ALL while the league is competitively set up to tear you down when you get good, (between the draft and schedule being weighted against you).

That is incredible and, as a fan, I love that fact about this team. This year has been a joy to watch (despite the defense), these guys are fun and entertaining and they play hard and as a team. Furthermore, with some of their young talent, it appears they are stocked to make runs at the Superbowl for the next five years or so, provided that Brady stays healthy.

Bottom line: I think Belichick’s drafting has actually gotten better since Pioli left, his way of doing things builds roster depth and team chemistry, which are vital to winning and sustaining success and I think that we finally have proof that if you do it the other way, things may go good when everything breaks your way (JETS) and when you star players are all healthy (Colts in ’06) but when it goes the other way, which it usually does, you are in big trouble for it.

Going into 2012, both the Jets and Colts have chemistry issues, cap issues and depth of player issues that aren’t going to just disappear in the new year. I think things are going to actually continue to trend down for both teams next year.

So I think the verdict is in BB wins again as both coach and GM and I think Felger, et al, should have to send him a nice apology fruit basket or something. 😉

One last thing and then I promise I’ll stop typing. This year Bill Belichick the “GM” is taking a ton of heat for that defense and how they are historically bad and he has a bunch of “who dats” back there. Now, they drive me crazy too, don’t get me wrong, (not with the yards given up, but mostly with bad technique in the secondary). How none of those guys know to turn their head half way into the route to find the ball, is beyond me. McCourty would have like five INTs if he just turned his damn head around…. Anyway I digress, BUT, my point is that Belichick made roster moves in the beginning of the season that seem crazy now, BUT they’ve been slammed with injuries back there, which you wouldn’t figure on happening to this extent. Your starting DBs were supposed to be:

  • Ras-I Dowling – IR (They figured he’d come around, but due to other injuries couldn’t wait any longer and had to take his spot for someone else. I think this one and Bodden hurt them the most this year.)
  • Devin McCourty – Injured, missed three games just as he was starting to play with more confidence and hasn’t been the same this year as he was last year.
  • Pat Chung – Injured, missed seven games.
  • Leigh Bodden – Injured, cut, (should have gone on IR)
  •  Brandon Meriweather- Cut (head case)
  • Josh Barrett – IR
  • Kyle Arrington- Only guy who wasn’t really hurt this year.

So out of all those guys, one was cut for not playing within the system and only one other has been on the field for the whole year. I bet Belichick wishes he still had James Sanders, but in looking at that line-up, you would figure he’d be expendable at his cap number. So, the issue with this team on the back-end has been continuity… There hasn’t been any ALL season long.

I think this explains in part why they get better in the red zone. Things become more simple down there and it is easier to just play one-on-one football if you don’t have the whole field behind you, so they become more effective. I only hope they can develop some in the next month with Chung back and some of the other guys stepping in and up who now have some experience, because, God willing, they make the Superbowl, Green Bay or New Orleans is going to carve them up on that fast track in Indy if they don’t.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read all of this, I hope the thoughts came through in some cohesive manner.

2011 – New England Patriots
1 17 Nate Solder T Colorado
2 33 Ras-I Dowling DB Virginia
2 56 Shane Vereen RB California
3 73 Stevan Ridley RB LSU
3 74 Ryan Mallett QB Arkansas
5 138 Marcus Cannon T Texas Christian
5 159 Lee Smith TE Marshall
6 194 Markell Carter LB Central Arkansas
7 219 Malcolm Williams DB Texas Christian
2010 – New England Patriots
1 27 Devin McCourty CB Rutgers
2 42 Rob Gronkowski TE Arizona
2 53 Jermaine Cunningham OLB Florida
2 62 Brandon Spikes ILB Florida
3 90 Taylor Price WR Ohio U.
4 113 Aaron Hernandez TE Florida
5 150 Zoltan Mesko P Michigan
6 205 Ted Larsen G North Carolina State
7 208 Thomas Welch OT Vanderbilt
7 247 Brandon Deaderick DE Alabama
7 248 Kade Weston DT Georgia
7 250 Zac Robinson QB Oklahoma State
2009 – New England Patriots
2 34 Pat Chung DB Oregon
2 40 Ron Brace DT Boston College
2 41 Darius Butler DB Connecticut
2 58 Sebastian Vollmer T Houston
3 83 Brandon Tate WR North Carolina
3 97 Tyrone McKenzie OLB South Florida
4 123 Rich Ohrnberger G Penn State
5 170 George Bussey T Louisville
6 198 Jake Ingram C Hawaii
6 199 Stryker Sulak DE Missouri
6 207 Myron Pryor DT Kentucky
7 232 Julian Edelman WR Kent State
7 234 Darryl Richard DT Georgia Tech
2008 – New England Patriots
1 10 Jerod Mayo ILB Tennessee
2 62 Terrence Wheatley CB Colorado
3 78 Shawn Crable OLB Michigan
3 94 Kevin O’Connell QB San Diego State
4 129 Jonathan Wilhite CB Auburn
5 153 Matt Slater WR UCLA
6 197 Bo Ruud LB Nebraska
2007 – New England Patriots
1 24 Brandon Meriweather DB Miami (Fla.)
4 127 Kareem Brown DT Miami (Fla.)
5 171 Clint Oldenburg T Colorado State
6 180 Justin Rogers LB Southern Methodist
6 202 Mike Richardson DB Notre Dame
6 208 Justise Hairston RB Central Connecticut State
6 209 Corey Hilliard OT Oklahoma State
7 211 Oscar Lua LB USC
7 247 Mike Elgin G Iowa
2006 – New England Patriots
1 21 Laurence Maroney RB Minnesota
2 36 Chad Jackson WR Florida
3 86 David Thomas TE Texas
4 106 Garrett Mills RB Tulsa
4 118 Stephen Gostkowski K Memphis
5 136 Ryan O’Callaghan T California
6 191 Jeremy Mincey LB Florida
6 205 Dan Stevenson G Notre Dame
6 206 Le Kevin Smith DT Nebraska
7 229 Willie Andrews CB Baylor
2005 – New England Patriots
1 32 Logan Mankins G Fresno State
3 84 Ellis Hobbs CB Iowa State
3 100 Nick Kaczur T Toledo
4 133 James Sanders SAF Fresno State
5 170 Ryan Claridge LB Nevada-Las Vegas
7 230 Matt Cassel QB USC
7 255 Andy Stokes TE William Penn


New York Jets
2011 – New York Jets
1 30 Muhammad Wilkerson DT Temple
3 94 Kenrick Ellis DT Hampton
4 126 Bilal Powell RB Louisville
5 153 Jeremy Kerley WR Texas Christian
7 208 Greg McElroy QB Alabama
7 227 Scotty McKnight WR Colorado
2010 – New York Jets
1 29 Kyle Wilson CB Boise State
2 61 Vladimir Ducasse T Massachusetts
4 112 Joe McKnight RB USC
5 139 John Conner RB Kentucky
2009 – New York Jets
1 5 Mark Sanchez QB USC
3 65 Shonn Greene RB Iowa
6 193 Matt Slauson G Nebraska
2008 – New York Jets
1 6 Vernon Gholston LB Ohio State
1 30 Dustin Keller TE Purdue
4 113 Dwight Lowery CB San Jose State
5 162 Erik Ainge QB Tennessee
6 171 Marcus Henry WR Kansas
7 211 Nate Garner T Arkansas
2007 – New York Jets
1 14 Darrelle Revis CB Pittsburgh
2 47 David Harris ILB Michigan
6 177 Jacob Bender T Nicholls State
7 235 Chansi Stuckey WR Clemson
2006 – New York Jets
1 4 D’Brickashaw Ferguson T Virginia
1 29 Nick Mangold C Ohio State
2 49 Kellen Clemens QB Oregon
3 76 Anthony Schlegel LB Ohio State
3 97 Eric Smith DB Michigan State
4 103 Brad Smith WR Missouri
4 117 Leon Washington RB Florida State
5 150 Jason Pociask TE Wisconsin
6 189 Drew Coleman CB Texas Christian
7 220 Titus Adams DT Nebraska
2011 – Indianapolis Colts
1 22 Anthony Castonzo T Boston College
2 49 Ben Ijalana T Villanova
3 87 Drake Nevis DT LSU
4 119 Delone Carter RB Syracuse
6 188 Chris Rucker DB Michigan State
2010 – Indianapolis Colts
1 31 Jerry Hughes DE Texas Christian
2 63 Pat Angerer OLB Iowa
3 94 Kevin Thomas DB USC
4 129 Jacques McClendon G Tennessee
5 162 Brody Eldridge TE Oklahoma
7 238 Ricardo Mathews DE Cincinnati
7 240 Kavell Conner OLB Clemson
7 246 Ray Fisher DB Indiana
2009 – Indianapolis Colts
1 27 Donald Brown RB Connecticut
2 56 Fili Moala DT USC
3 92 Jerraud Powers DB Auburn
4 127 Austin Collie WR Brigham Young
4 136 Terrance Taylor DT Michigan
6 201 Curtis Painter QB Purdue
7 222 Pat McAfee P West Virginia
7 236 Jaimie Thomas G Maryland
2008 – Indianapolis Colts
2 59 Mike Pollak G Arizona State
3 93 Philip Wheeler OLB Georgia Tech
4 127 Jacob Tamme TE Kentucky
5 161 Marcus Howard DE Georgia
6 196 Tom Santi TE Virginia
6 201 Steve Justice C Wake Forest
6 202 Mike Hart RB Michigan
6 205 Pierre Garcon WR Mount Union
7 236 Jamey Richard C Buffalo
2007 – Indianapolis Colts
1 32 Anthony Gonzalez WR Ohio State
2 42 Tony Ugoh T Arkansas
3 95 Dante Hughes CB California
3 98 Quinn Pitcock DT Ohio State
4 131 Brannon Condren DB Troy State
4 136 Clint Session LB Pittsburgh
5 169 Roy Hall WR Ohio State
5 173 Michael Coe CB Alabama State
7 242 Keyunta Dawson DT Texas Tech
2006 – Indianapolis Colts
1 30 Joseph Addai RB Louisiana State
2 62 Tim Jennings CB Georgia
3 94 Freddie Keiaho LB San Diego State
5 162 Michael Toudouze G Texas Christian
6 199 Charlie Johnson T Oklahoma State
6 207 Antoine Bethea SS Howard
7 238 T.J. Rushing CB Stanford
2005 – Indianapolis Colts
1 29 Marlin Jackson DB Michigan
2 60 Kelvin Hayden DB Illinois
3 92 Vincent Burns DE Kentucky
4 129 Dylan Gandy G Texas Tech
4 135 Matt Giordano DB California
5 148 Jonathan Welsh DE Wisconsin
5 165 Robert Hunt C North Dakota State
5 173 Tyjuan Hagler LB Cincinnati
6 202 Dave Rayner K Michigan State
7 243 Anthony Davis Wisconsin

Worst. 13-3. Team. Ever.

On a day in which Patriots’ family business was being settled all over the league, Godfather style – Jets imploding, Polians getting fired in Indy – talk on the local airwaves was again how the Patriots SUCK at drafting, and how their 13-3 record is fraudulent because they didn’t beat anyone with a winning record. (Maybe the Patriots should’ve dropped one to the Jets so they could say they beat a winning team?)

Welcome to the New Year. Same as the Old Year.

If you’ve got any common sense, or just actually like your team, you’ll avoid sports radio and television as much as possible over the next two weeks. There won’t be much deviation from the story line, no matter who they end up playing on January 14th.

Let’s be clear, the Patriots have something to prove. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Maybe we can talk about what they need to do to be successful, rather than simply telling us over and over again that they’ve done nothing yet.

Let’s look at some report cards from Sunday’s game.

Making The Grades – Bills at Patriots – Jeremy Gottlieb has the Patriots playing with fire early, then catching fire.

Report Card: Brady, Belichick lead the way – Kirk Minihane hands out grades for both the Bills game and the entire regular season.

Patriots report card – Ron Borges opens with the line about not beating a team with a winning record. Of course, New England played seven games against teams that went 8-8, and won them all. The reason those teams don’t have a winning record is because they lost to the Patriots.

Hector Longo’s Two-Minute Drill – A rough first quarter for the cornerbacks does them in.

Patriots Center – ESPN Boston has their grades.

Patriots report card Game 16 – Put your own grades in on Boston.com.

Waters is the unsung MVP for Pats – Bill Burt has a column worth reading on Brian Waters, and his perspective on the Patriots after so many years in Kansas City.

Steelers, Bengals loom as playoff probables – Jonathan Comey looks at the three possible opponents. Glen Farley has more on the possibilities.

On bye, time can really fly – Shalise Manza Young looks at what balance the Patriots will attempt to strike during the bye week.

In position to prosper – Ian Rapoport looks at the experiment of putting Devin McCourty at safety, and whether it will continue.

Greg Stiemsma gets confidence boost – Chris Forsberg looks at the Celtics rookie center, who has opened a few eyes with his play. Steve Bulpett has Stiemsma’s teammates very happy for him. Paul Flannery has more on the shot-blocking rookie.

Shame on Comcast SportsNet for foisting this on us on Sunday night: