by Scott Benson
The long awaited rematch with Eric Mangini and the New York Jets has finally arrived, and with it a messy winter storm. With all the high drama that is expected this afternoon, the morning papers are out in force. Let’s dive in.
The Globe leads off with a big file photo of Bill Belichick with his arm around the shoulder of Mangini, and that sets the tone for the day’s coverage. It’s all about Bill and Eric, and handshakes. Christopher Gasper sets the stage with a rehash of the Patriots-Jets soap opera, but acknowledges that several other teams have come to better fit the term ‘rival’ for New England. Jim McCabe follows with a Top Ten list of NFL feuds. I laughed when I saw that ESPN analyst Mike Ditka, a frequent critic of Belichick, once tried to trade blows with Packers coach Forrest Gregg in the bowels of County Stadium – after an exhibition game. Do as I say, not as I do, I guess.
In his Patriots notebook, Gasper has the Jets secondary praising Randy Moss, perhaps in an effort to lull him to sleep this afternoon. Jim McBride says it won’t do any good, calling for a 28 point Patriots win in his weekly scouting report.
Mike Reiss closes out the Globe’s coverage with another exhaustive edition of his league notes, where he has Romeo Crennel building a foundation in Cleveland, Charlie Casserly taking a measure of satisfaction in the play of Mario Williams, and the always volatile Lawyer Milloy blasting away at departed Falcons coach Bobby Petrino. Deservedly so, I might add.
In the Herald, John Tomase looks at the Jets fall from grace since their 2006 playoff season. In his Quick Hits, Tomase wonders whether Belichick will pull a swerve on the football world this afternoon, and adds a bit of a rant on the sometimes docile Gillette Stadium crowd. Not going to do much for John’s Q rating among Pats fans, I suspect. Tomase closes with five things to look for today. Guess what #1 is? Handshake!
Karen Gurgeian has the Pats notebook, reminding us that on a slippery track, the advantage goes to the offense. Tony Massarotti has a brief bit on Ben Watson, who has faded to the background after an impressive start. Tony laments that Watson isn’t as productive as Jason Whitten. Um…..okay. I would suggest that one reason might be that Whitten is the Cowboys second option, and for the spread ’em out Patriots, Watson is no better than, what? Fifth? Sixth? I’m not sure how much Watson could really do about that.
In their weekly Behind Enemy Lines feature, the Herald offers a forum for Steve Serby of the NY Post, who is doing his best to convince himself that the weather will be the great equalizer for the Jets today. Um…..okay. I did get a kick out of David Bowens and his story about Tom Brady’s cappuccino machine at Michigan. Was Peter King a frequent visitor?
In the ProJo, Jim Donaldson says when it comes to the controversial Patriots, the game itself seems to play second fiddle. Pretty good point, I think, though Jim never gets to the X’s and O’s either. Shalise Manza Young does her typically thorough job on the decline of the Belichick-Mangini relationship, before going up close with cornerback and track man Eddie Jackson. In her game analysis, SMY notes that the Patriots lead the league with 32 drives of five minutes or longer, which I will do my best to remember the next time I start to fret about the de-emphasized running game.
Elsewhere, our pal Chris Price of the Metro reminds us that snow has never been a problem for the Pats. Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger, who always seems to find a fresh angle, talks with Arizona special teams coach Kevin Spencer, who first brought Belichick and Mangini together in Cleveland. David Heuschkel of the Courant says regardless of the history shared between the two men, frost is expected in Foxborough today. Rachel Lenzi of the Maine Sunday Telegram, bless her heart, acts as though none of this is happening by focusing on Tom Brady, celebrity quarterback.
As I’m finishing this up, the Today show opens with a report from Gillette Stadium, enveloped in a Nor’easter some five hours before gametime. As Michael Conrad used to say, be careful out there.