by Scott Benson

The Patriots will try to stay undefeated on the road – and maybe clinch the AFC East – when they take on Miami in their final division game of the season this afternoon. Let’s open up the Sunday papers for a look at what they’ve prepared for the occasion.

In his Globe notebook, Mike Reiss confirms that Laurence Maroney will indeed be sidelined this afternoon with the mysterious back injury that he suffered last week. Reiss also reports that special teams ace (and sometime ILB fill in) Don Davis has been lost for the season; another blow to the Pats linebacking depth. With his contract up, this may be the end in New England for the valuable puzzle piece. Let’s hope not.

Mike also lays out what’s at stake today for the Road Raging Pats (his nifty phrase, not mine), who will try to set a franchise record for road wins (8) this afternoon. Mike reminds us that the Pats have won their last four road games by a minimum of 22 points, the first team in league history to do so.

Jim McBride likes the Pats over Miami by 10 in his scouting report. Ron Borges is back on the weekly Football Notes, where he takes a look at Vince Young’s rookie season. Let’s see – a freelancing running quarterback who has yet to prove himself as a passer. Look out! It’s revolutionary! I’m shaking!

The Globe rolls out a couple of neat feature pieces this morning – first, Amalie Benjamin writes about the longstanding friendship – on and off the field – between Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, the club’s resident pain in the ass (in a good way). This one is highlighted by Bruschi’s hilarious admission that “sometimes I feel like punching him in the face.” Awwwww, Tedy. That’s sweet.

Jim McCabe reaches back for a look at the 1930’s era Boston Redskins, the city’s first pro football team, which of course went on to institutional status in Washington after being unable to get anyone’s attention here. McCabe also has a sidebar on owner George Preston Marshall, who took his team and got the hell out of Dodge in a fit of pique. Probably just as well – I prefer Bob Kraft to Dan Snyder anyway. Marshall, of course, was a horrible racist, but he wasn’t all bad – he was jealous of the Red Sox too! I’ll bet you a buck this shows up in a Shaughnessy column soon.

At the Herald, John Tomase has the news on Maroney and Davis, and notes that rookie Chad Jackson will miss another game with a leg injury. Kelvin Kight has been activated from the practice squad to fill the fifth receiver role for the Pats.

Mike Felger again does most of the heavy lifting for the Herald football staff, starting with a Patriots Beat look at Tom Brady’s recent hot streak, and the open question of whether he can continue it today, against a team that has always given him fits. Mike adds his scouting report, and throws in a couple of sidebar nuggets — warning us to watch That Effing Wes Welker in the slot today, while breaking down Corey Dillon’s 2nd quarter TD against the Lions for a sense of why the Patriots are so good in short yardage situations.

Mike also takes his weekly look around the league, where he compares the drug policies of the NFL and MLB.

I really don’t know what to make of Albert Breer. I’m always ready to welcome new blood to the Pats beat, but Breer sometimes comes off as one of those guys that will tell you one hundred times what’s wrong with the Patriots while never once mentioning what’s right about them. They ARE 9-3, Albert. How about a little perspective? And the Pats defense “got killed” by the Bears? Really? They gave up 13 freaking points to a 9-1 team despite five turnovers by the offense. Revisionist history at work. Put this piece of crap in the round file, folks.

The Herald wraps up with another one of those three-day-old Behind Enemy Lines columns – this one from Boston native Dave Joseph, writer for the South Flrida Sun Sentinal – who’s ready to pitch Joey Harrington over the side. Thanks for those four straight wins Joey – now get out.

The Projo appears targeted towards people who will be watching their first professional football game this afternoon. Shalise Manza Young reveals that – gasp – Bill Belichick and Nick Saban are friends. Actual friends! Two rival coaches! Friends! I can’t get my head around that. Thankfully, here’s Bill Reynolds to help. Bill’s taken a look at the situation and has decided that Pats playoff success will really depend on – hold on to your hats – the play of quarterback Tom Brady. See, I was going to say Nick Kaczur. Thanks Bill! I’ll keep an eye on Brady from now on.

Joe McDonald says ‘advantage, Pats’ in his weekly scouting report. Jim Donaldson says that the struggles of the defending champ Steelers should make you appreciate the Pats more than ever. Seriously, no offense Projo, but I could have skipped this whole section today. But if I had, I would have missed Kevin Faulk answer ‘drug dealer’ when Shalise asked him to name the job he wouldn’t want in her weekly Who I Am segment. I would have said ‘contract killer’, because of the travel.

A couple of weeks ago, the blogs mentioned that Belichick had particularly enjoyed fielding the questions of a USA Today reporter, who was in town to write a feature on the Pats organization. The paper ran the story this week, and here it is. I noticed it was also the cover story of their weekly sports paper too.

Criminy, did Bill Barnwell ever strike a nerve over at the message board this week. A (last time I checked) SIXTEEN page thread prompted by Bill’s column that pegged Chris Chambers as football’s worst WR (based on productivity rankings developed at Bill’s mothership,

Honestly. Posting all day on a message board just because someone says something derogatory about your football team. I just don’t understand some people.

Thanks for stopping by. If you’re looking for more, there’s the Patriots News Mashup page, and as always, Mike Reiss has all the latest at his priceless Reiss’s Pieces blog. See you after the game.