by Scott Benson

Christmas Eve brings one of the biggest games of the 2006 season as the Patriots meet the rugged Jaguars today in Jacksonville. Here’s a quick turn at the links before we head off over the river and through the woods……

In the Globe, beat guy Mike Reiss writes about today’s must-win for both teams, and the Patriots’ desire to wrap it up. The prevailing thought today is that the game will be won in the trenches, which makes the continued absence of Vince Wilfork and Ben Watson unfortunate. Mike’s notebook goes on to preview the returns of Laurence Maroney and Rodney Harrison, who both made the trip to Jacksonville with the intention of playing.

In his weekly scouting report, Jim McBride previews the trench fight and gives the advantage to Jacksonville on both sides of the ball.

Ron Borges writes masterfully on Larry Izzo and his 11 year career as a NFL specialist. Here’s something I didn’t know; Izzo is the second leading special teams tackler in the history of the NFL. Ron also offers his weekly Football Notes, where he takes a crack at year-end NFL awards. Naturally, Peyton Manning and Ladanian Tomlinson take home the major hardware. Note that Eric Mangini, of all people, is Ron’s coach of the year. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

At the Herald, Michael Felger wonders if the Patriots can get on a playoff roll by stringing together complete football games for the first time this season. Felger gives the size matchups to the Jaguars, particularly at the wide receiver position, and also takes a quick peek at the upward trending Willie Andrews, the Pats leading special teams tackler.

John Tomase opens his notebook with the latest inactive updates, and notes the presence of Maroney and Kevin Faulk (who dodged a bullet last week) in the Patriots backfield, which may be called on again to lead the offense.

A couple of ‘Herald wire services’ stories round out the tab’s coverage – a collaborative scouting report again highlights the expected struggle in the trenches, and a zip around the league finds former Pat Deion Branch – much like the Little River Band – reminiscing.

Let’s not forget the Herald’s enemy lines entry for this week – Carl Kotala of Florida Today says David Garrard has already forgotten last Sunday’s four turnover performance against the Titans. Well, Dave, those who cannot learn history are doomed to repeat it. Santayana, bitches!

Lastly, at the ProJo, Shalise Manza Young has a pleasant feature on Terri Terrell, Laurence’s Maroney’s mom. Sounds like a nice family, and Maroney continues to come off as a well-grounded sort. In her weekly ‘Who I Am’, Shalise asks the players about the best gifts they’ve ever gotten, and given.

Joe McDonald is unbelievably optimistic in his weekly game analysis. That’s all right, Joe, I like your spirit.

Jim Donaldson’s got a column on the Patriots playing the ‘disrespect’ card again, except that if you look closely, you’ll see it’s Donaldson playing the disrespect card again, not the Patriots.

It occurs to me that I haven’t really recommended the ProJo Pats blog before, so here it is.

I guess that’s it for this morning, unless you head over to Bruce’s Patriots News Mashup page for further coverage. Naturally, you know where to click for updates throughout the morning – Reiss’s Pieces has always been the first place to check. I’ll be back later with some post game thoughts from our mobile studios in South Paris, Maine. Safe traveling, everyone.