by Scott Benson

If you’re anything like me, you’re not sure if you’re looking forward to this afternoon’s Pats-Packers tilt or not. After all, the Patriots are in their worst dip in a year, with two discouraging performances in a row, and the thought of another Sunday like the previous two make me a little gun shy. What the hell – let’s open the papers anyway.

At Dan Shaughnessey’s Daddy Globe, our friend Mike Reiss carries the ball again, and this morning’s big story is that Asante Samuel will join Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison on the Patriots sidelines today, leaving the team without 75% of its starting secondary. Mike’s word is that James Sanders will replace Chad Scott at Harrison’s safety spot while Scott replaces Samuel at corner. It’s nice to have Chad back on the edge, where he’s played well, but I would have preferred it happen under better circumstances, obviously.

Reiss continues with a few thoughts from Vince Wilfork, who calls for the Patriots to return to physical, throwback football at historic Lambeau Field. Have at it, Vince. The big tackle tells Reiss that the Pats “can’t wait to get out there” after the last two weeks.

Mike also relieves Ron Borges on the weekly Football Notes, where he talks with San Diego GM AJ Smith about the construction of the Chargers as they prepare to face the Broncos in Denver tonight. Anybody calling Phillip Rivers a stiff lately, by the way? Reiss also connects with the world’s clutchest field goal holder, Ken Walter, who hopes for a comeback after being out of football for awhile. Ken has some poignant thoughts about the Foxboro fandom.

Jim McCabe writes beautifully of Titletown’s local flavor, and Jim McBride has his weekly scouting report.

At the Herald, Michael Felger is – like Frank Constanza – prolific. I’ll give Mike credit here – for a ubiquitous multi-mediot, he sure does a lot of heavy lifting on Sundays. As usual, he’s responsible for most of the Herald’s content today.

He probably could have saved himself the trouble with his lead article, where he grabs on to some innocuous Tom Brady comments to slug away at Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre. That’s so 2005, Michael. I suppose as part owner of the Packers, Felger can’t help himself. He must be popular with other Packer fans, who have of course deified the former pill popper.

Felger then runs the Herald’s Chad Jackson flag up the pole again, though I suppose this week it makes sense, as it was the Packers who traded the pick that the Pats used on the rookie. Naturally, the Packers selected a wide receiver with the pick they received in return (Greg Jennings), and wouldn’t you know it, he’s had a better rookie year than the Patriots Playstation champion (hopefully, Chad took his playbook with him when he was on line for the PS-III this week). I hate it when things are so easy for the media. Mike also has some thoughts about a couple of potential free agent Chicago Bears corners.

In a collection of random thoughts, Felger ruminates on the move from grass to Field Turf, and adds a sidebar warning the Patriots secondary to prepare for the slant, a staple of the Packers passing game. Hey, NEM, there’s your offense right there.

John Tomase has the Herald notebook, which includes a look at the Pats secondary woes and a few thoughts from Jabar Gaffney – like who seems damn glad to be here.

Want more? You do the clicking then, you lazy bastards – just hit the BSMW Patriots News Mashup page.

Elsewhere, the Cold Hard Football Facts has its own unique spin on (their words) the Stats That Matter, with its Quality Standings page. I just recently picked up on their offensive and defensive line rankings. They’re based on yards per carry, negative pass plays and time of possession averages, which makes sense to me. The Pats come up well on both fronts, ranking 5th on offense and 7th on defense, despite middling TOP averages on both sides of the ball.

Run the ball, Josh!

It’s only fair that I mention that Bill Barnwell’s outfit, Football Outsiders, has its own method for measuring line play, its richly detailed Adjusted Line Yards. This one’s cool because it tells you how often (and how successfully) a team runs in a given direction. I admit it – I don’t exactly have the intellectual horsepower to keep up with these guys, but if you’re a Bill James kind of guy, FO has to be your top bookmark.

Speaking of Barnwell, did you catch his GDRV bit on expatriate ex-Patriots yesterday? Bill’s been a great pickup for us. When Bruce and I started GDRV a few years ago, I never thought we’d have guys like Barnwell and Greg Doyle contributing the kind of quality stuff they do every week. Those guys, along with the Tall Man himself, bring our readers some much needed relief from my crude, guttural wails.

It’s been a fun season already, and I hope we’ll all have many more. Next week, our Roundtable feature will even drag in a buddy from the dark, sinister world of the BSMW message board, the well-traveled ‘Box Score’. There is absolutely going to be a hospitality question in there somewhere, I assure you of that.

Why does anybody care what an NFL coach wears on the sideline? This week, 49’ers coach Mike Nolan got the OK to wear a suit for the Niners game with Seattle (as an homage to his dad Dick, who sartorially coached San Fransisco in the Sixties), and Jack Del Rio quickly followed suit (heh, heh) for the Jags MNF game with the Giants. Permission was needed, of course, because of the league’s apparel deal with Reebok, who – and I thought this was a joke at first – will now fashion the dress up duds for Nolan and Del Rio.

That’s all fine, but naturally, the enterprising local media quickly (and predictably, and annoyingly) makes the story about Bill Belichick, known far and wide as the Worst Dressed Man in the World. If you believe these guys, anyway. John Tomase launched this beauty on Friday, in reference to the Dreaded Hoodie:

Could the days of Bill Belichick dressing out of the nearest trash can be coming to an end?

Dressing out of a freaking trash can? That might be overstating it a bit there, John, and never mind the mess you’re making out of your glass house. It’s a sweatshirt. A football garment being worn at a football game. Imagine that. These guys can gin up a fit over just about anything. It’s funny, because now that they show up on my TV at all hours, uninvited, I can see they’re not exactly runway models either. So what’s the beef? It’s just another easy angle to bust the coach’s nuts some more for not playing ball with them, and I’m always surprised and disappointed at how many fans lap it up.

I’ll tell you why this bothers me so much – earlier this week, when the Pats signed Vinny Testaverde, that goof Alan Greenberg wrote one of his typical knee-jerk, half-cocked columns shrieking that the marginal acquisition proved that Tom Brady was mortally wounded. I mean, get a load of this junk:

Is Tom Brady injured? Is Brady, who has not missed a start since taking over for the injured Drew Bledsoe in the third game of the 2001 season, sufficiently banged up after last Sunday’s loss to the Jets that he’s on the verge of giving way to backup Matt Cassel for Sunday’s game at Green Bay against the Packers? If he isn’t, why did the Patriots announce the signing of Vinny Testaverde Tuesday?

Matt Cassel? Huh? Whaaaa?

Anyway, why it bothers me is that a couple of days later I’m cruising, and I stumble into one of their unctuous ‘rumor’ pages, and there it is, big as life, right up top: ‘Brady hurt’. Source material? Mr. Greenberg. So now people all over the counry are looking at this and seeing it as an actual representation of reality, which as we know, is not a place Alan frequently visits, at least where the Patriots are concerned.

That just bothers me for some reason.

Back to the field for a second, you know where to go to find the latest game day news – the indispensible Reiss’s Pieces. Click later to confirm whether the Pats will indeed have a returning Ty Warren and Stephen Neal when they take the field this afternoon.

Naturally, unless I pass out on the couch in a deep funk, I’ll be back after the game.