sunday_links.jpgby Scott Benson

How long have you been waiting for this day?

Ever since the 2007 schedule was first released, I suspect. It’s not hyperbole to say this is one compelling opening game. Let’s face it, the Patriots could be opening in someplace like Glendale, AZ today. Better they finish the 2007 season there, and start it here, where familiarity has bred contempt. Here, in most hostile New Jersey, with the bitter rival that would love nothing better than to disabuse New England of the divisional title it has held since 2003.

Hard to top that. Let’s see what the local papers have to say about it.

At the Globe, Christopher Gaspar cautions the Patriots to expect the unexpected in the usually-tricky opener, even though it will be the fourth meeting between the teams in their last 20 games. In his weekly Scouting Report, Jim McBride promises the Pats a favorable result if they will only hand the ball to Laurence Maroney. Jackie MacMullan chips in with a closer look at new arrival Donte Stallworth, who hopes he’s finally in the right place at the right time in New England.

Be honest – did you keep expecting Stallworth to demand a new contract somewhere in this piece? Claim he had been disrespected? Reveal a menacing tattoo that says something like “Remit Payment Upon Receipt”? I mean, a Jackie Mac column on the day of a big Pats game…’s okay, he doesn’t do any of those things. I know, I looked.

Mike Reiss then talks to some blood-draining psychopath in his weekly Football Notes, about the NFL’s HGH-eruption on the eve of a new campaign. Now, I don’t want to make light of this issue (even though I still don’t know if I should care about it), but did you check this guy’s credentials, Mike? He’s ranting and raving about draining blood from players and freezing it. What kind of madman are you, ‘doctor’? In the immortal words of Susie Greene, you sick ****.

Seriously, a typically solid job by Reiss, who later notes that, since 1978, teams that win their opening game are twice as likely to reach the playoffs as the teams they vanquish.

Over at the Herald, John Tomase declares this Patriots team as the most talented the franchise has ever put on paper. I suppose, but I’m dubious as to the value of this to the new Patriots Hall of Fame/Discount Warehouse and Tire Center the team is building. Anyway, John has compiled expert opinions on several of the Pats’ key players, a thorough piece befitting today’s occasion. There’s also Tomase’s Five Things to Look For this afternoon.

Tomase also submits this week’s Patriots Beat, in which he declares that pupil Eric Mangini has proven that he is now able to match wits with his mentor, Bill Belichick. Now, I grant John, the Jets are a much tougher matchup under Mangini than they were under HBO breakout star Herm Edwards, but Mangini proved he can ‘match’ game plans and adjustments with Belichick by losing two of three games to New England last year?

The headline writers at the Herald didn’t do Tomase any favors either, adding in “Mangini the only rival able to outwit Belichick”. Well, that’s one way of looking at a .333 winning percentage. Two words, folks: Mike Shanahan.

Karen Guregian has the notebook this morning, noting a series of roster moves yesterday that left Tory James and Marcellus Rivers cut, and Asante Samuel, Corey Mays and Santonio Thomas on the 53 man list. Also, would you have ever guessed that Reche Caldwell was once one of the loudest guys in the Patriots locker room?

Tony Massarotti pens a football column today. He must have lost a bet or something. “I’ll bet you that Manny is faking.”

In the ProJo, Shalise Manza Young gets the opening day jitters, and talks with Belichick about the unknowns of the season’s first game. Did we know that Belichick’s first game as an NFL assistant was also Walter Payton’s first game as a pro? Have we talked about this before?

Shalise also goes Up Close with safety James Sanders, who reveals a background in health science and physical therapy. What better place to have these skills than in the New England secondary? Versatility!

Jim Donaldson says that the Pats will feel the loss of Richard Seymour far more than the loss of Rodney Harrison. I may agree, but jeez, Jim…don’t be such a downer.

Bill Reynolds finishes up by marveling at the NFL that Pete Rozelle wrought.

In the Hartford Courant, David Heuschkel says that it’s hardly a level playing field when Tom Brady steps on the artificial turf. As always, you can find the rest of the story at

Enjoy the game today, friends.

Note: My first pass at this column today completely overlooked the outstanding Albert Breer and his own Patriots Beat, filed only with the MetroWest Daily News now that their shared arrangment with the Herald is finished. Anyway, Breer will be soon finished himself (off to cover the Cowboys in Dallas), but not before he rings up an ode to the Patriots Culture. I should have been paying closer attention than to miss out on one of our last helpings of Breer, who made quite an impact here in a short time.