logoby Scott Benson

It will be another looooooong Sunday for New England football fans as the 5-5 Philadelphia Eagles arrive in Foxboro tonight for the Pats’ second consecutive appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

This is the price we pay for being granted this rare football team, I guess – a prime-time schedule to rival that of Dateline NBC. And there’s more to come – next Monday night, the Pats will be in Baltimore for Monday Night Football, their third straight prime-time game.

At least the Giants game – the regular season finale – is on a Saturday. Doesn’t seem half as bad. These Sundays and Mondays are killers.

Still, we trudge ahead. At least we have a hat and t-shirt game to watch in the interim – if the Jaguars can beat the Bills at 1:00 PM (CBS), the Patriots will win their fifth straight AFC East title. If Jacksonville comes up short, the Pats can do the job on their own by beating Philly later.

Let’s get the day started with a look at the morning papers.

In the Globe, Chris Gasper and Jim McCabe ponder the divergent paths taken by the Pats and the Eagles since their last meeting, in Super Bowl 39. Gasper recounts the charges against Public Enemy #1 (was this even necessary, AGAIN? Yeah, I’m concerned about the Pats image in the eyes of their opponents) and McCabe wonders how difference between the teams went from 3 points (January ’05) to 24 (tonight’s point spread)

Gasper’s notebook has Donovan McNabb out and AJ Feeley in for the Eagles. An upgrade, as far as I’m concerned. Jim McBride likes the Eagles to cover but the Pats to win by three scores anyway. In his weekly league notes, Mike Reiss talks with Bill Parcells about the disparity between the NFL’s haves and have nots, which the legendary coach attributes to quarterback play. That’s true, coach, but as I mentioned earlier – we won’t have to suffer through another McNabb performance tonight.

In the Herald, John Tomase says it’s on the great Brian Westbrook to ensure the Eagles don’t get blown out tonight. Tomase says watching to see if the Eagles can overcome the 24 point spread is one of five things to look for tonight. John goes on to inventory the team and individual records that the Pats will pursue over the final six games, and wonders if the NFL community can stomach giving coach of the year honors to the formerly-rebuked Bill Belichick.

Karen Gurgeian closes out the Herald coverage with her Pats notebook, where she catches up with forgotten man Jabar Gaffney, who is still hanging on to a role in the Pats offense.

In the ProJo, Shalise Manza Young says the Pats #3 ranked scoring defense has been challenged infrequently this season, but its members don’t doubt that it will respond when called upon. SMY goes on to chat with Donte Stallworth in her weekly Up Close segment (whatever happened to his alter ego, anyway?) and Jim Donaldson writes a column that somehow ends with a persistent “Wilhelm Belichick” challenging Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. See, because he’s always serving up the Humble Pie, even to the Perfect Pats. I am not making this up.

Elsewhere, Douglas Flynn of the MetroWest Daily News reminds us that the Eagles took a very Steeler-like approach to the Spygate scandal, instead of just keeping their traps shut. That may cause them a few added problems tonight. Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger says he won’t question the Pats when they sign Pac Man Jones this spring, not after witnessing the resurrection of Randy Moss in New England. In the Courant, David Heuschkel says the 24 point spread is a whole new level of respect for the often-disrespected Pats. In Portland, the Sunday Telegram’s Mike Lowe visits with special teams captain Larry Izzo.

That’s it for this morning. Perhaps we’ll be able to return around 4:00 PM to declare the Pats AFC East champs.