logoby Scott Benson

The Pats finally end their interminable Miami/bye-week hangover this afternoon when they land at Candlestick Park for a suddenly important game with the 49ers.

The start of their 10 day West Coast road trip gets – fortuitously, I think – pushed below the fold by the ALDS in this morning’s papers, but it’s right up front in this week’s Sunday Links.

In the Globe, Christopher Gasper says Matt Cassel and Randy Moss spent their downtime trying to make a connection. A big game from Moss today – half a dozen catches for a hundred yards, say – would go as far as anything to assuage local concerns for the team, I figure.

Gasper then turns his attention to jinxing Stephen Gostkowski, who will bring a string of 14 straight field goals into blustery Candlestick today. He misses a kick today and it’s on you, Gasper. Your colleague Jim McBride is at least holding up his end in his weekly scouting report, picking the Pats in a low-scoring struggle.

Mike Reiss has three national scouts breaking down Patrick Willis and Jerod Mayo in another expansive edition of the Football Notes.

Over at the Herald, John Tomase says no one was circling this game on the calendar before, but Bill Belichick and the Pats need a win today. Tomase says Frank Gore’s at the top of the list of things to keep your eye on.

Karen Guregian and Troy Aikman wonder if there may be a quarterback change in the offing.

I guess this is the last Sunday we won’t have a Ron Borges column in a local paper. I’d say shame on you Herald, but that notion became ridiculous a long time ago.

Let’s move on to more pleasant things, like Shalise Manza Young. SMY leads off the ProJo‘s coverage with a look at Randy Moss, team leader. The rest of this season will really put that to the test, I suspect. Another player that will be put to the test this season is guard Logan Mankins, Young’s subject in this week’s Up Close.

Jim Donaldson has Belichick reconnecting with former practice squadder J.T. O’Sullivan, who’s won a starting job with his fourth team since leaving New England.

Elsewhere, Mark Farinella of the Sun Chronicle looks at the Pats packing a grip and splitting for the Coast, just like Kramer. Douglas Flynn of the MWDN says the Pats should expect an air assault from Mike Martz (yeah, that worked last time), though in his five keys, Flynn admits it all begins with Marshall Faulk Frank Gore.

On the South Coast, Tim Weisberg says O’Sullivan’s making the most of his shot with the Niners, which leads David Brown to conclude that the Pats D has to grow a backbone to stop him.

In the Telegram-Gazette, Jennifer Toland thinks the Pats have something to prove today. Rich Garven’s already sizing up the playoff field in the AFC.

In Brockton, Glen Farley handicaps the up-for-grabs AFC East.

The Union Leader’s Brian MacPherson likes the Pats by 17 in his scouting report. That’s the spirit, Brian!

One more thing this morning – I was pleased to learn recently that the Patriot Ledger’s Eric McHugh has been working on a new Pats blog. McHugh’s always had a steady, reasoned take on the Pats, so this will be one to watch.