by Scott Benson

The Patriots play the Houston Texans today, and I honestly have no idea what to expect. December 17th is no time to be uttering that phrase, but there it is. I’d like to believe something was stirred as a result of their public flogging by the loathsome Dolphins, or by the public upbraiding they got from their quarterback. I’d like to believe there’s been an epiphany. I’d like to believe they’ll suddenly turn on a dime and begin playing mistake-free, been-there-done-that football, just when it’s needed most. Veterans become young again. Fresh faces become wizened.

I’d like to believe all those things are possible. I don’t know. Is the answer in the morning papers?

In the Globe, Mike Reiss leads with an expansive interview with the always proud and defiant Corey Dillon. He’s got an edge to him, as you know. Reiss also looks at a scrappy Tom Brady, who so often follows bad games with good ones. In his Patriots Notebook, Mike confirms John Tomase’s earlier report on Laurence Maroney’s torn rib cartilage, with prognosis by an unusually candid Bill Belichick.

Jim McBride likes the Patriots in his Scouting Report.

Ron Borges has the Football Notes, where he touches base with Bills owner Ralph Wilson, continuing to howl about the latest CBA and the vast single-wing conspiracy of large market owners. Ron also acknowledges the passing of Lamar Hunt, another of the old AFL vanguard. Ron arches an eyebrow in the general direction of the Broncos and their quarterback situation.

At the Herald, Michael Felger offers his look at a tense, terse week for the Pats, and says it remains to be seen if any of it will make a difference. In his Game Within the Game piece, Mike eyeballs the similarities between Gary Kubiak’s Houston offense and the one he ran in Denver. I always hated that goddam bootleg play, and today, it will be the mobile David Carr rolling out. Blecch. Felger also adds a quick look at last week’s stolen line call hoo haa, along with a few Quick Hits (Matt Light on the O-Lines ‘media boycott’, and look for the little shot at Drew Bledsoe at the end), and a look around the league with Inside the Huddle. Mike has Charlie Casserly for further defense of Mario Williams. He also touches on the bizarre happenings in Chicago, with Tank Williams, the New Capone.

Albert Breer has a thorough piece on the nose tackle position and how it functions in New England, which is especially timely given the sore ankle of Vince Wilfork. John Tomase weighs in with what to look for today, and John Lopez of the Houston Chronicle is the latest visitor from the Herald’s exchange program. John’s had it with Carr, I guess.

At the ProJo, Art Martone offers a game analysis, and Shalise Manza Young gives the battered Pats a routine check up. Young also joins the legions praising Artrell Hawkins in her weekly Who I Am segment.

Bob McGarry has his picks for the day, and there’s an uncredited collection of league notes.

As usual, Chef Recommends Reiss’s Pieces for all the latest game day updates, and if you’d like to see what the rest of the Internet is saying about the Pats, there’s BSMW’s Patriots News Mash Up page. I’ll back back tonight with some thoughts about the game, if you’re of a mind to stop by. In any event, let’s hope the folks traveling to the final regular season home game today get a good show for their efforts.