Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that the Patriots have an interesting mix of young players with no playoff experience, veterans who have never come close to winning a title, and a core group of players who have won it all more than once. First-timers will be turning to the veterans for guidance this week, as they prepare to face Jacksonville in the playoff opener Saturday. ''They say the playoffs are a whole other level, and I can understand that because just from the preseason to the regular season was another level," rookie safety James Sanders said. ''I'm just going to go out and prepare all week in practice, and when the game comes, hit the field at 100 miles an hour with my teammates and try to help us get a victory."
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that there is some question as to whether three defensive starters -- middle linebacker Mike Peterson, cornerback Kenny Wright, and defensive end Paul Spicer -- will be available for Saturday's game. Peterson left Alltel Stadium Saturday with a cast on his right wrist. Wright left Sunday's game with a knee injury and Spicer broke his left hand in pregame warmups three weeks ago. Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also offers a similar report.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe takes a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville is a 12-4 underdog most of the country really doesn't know that well. Their players and fans are already in full-fledged ''we get no respect" mode, which worked famously as a motivational tool for the Patriots over the last few years. ''If we beat the Patriots, maybe people will shut up about us," said defensive tackle John Henderson after the Jaguars ended their season with a 40-13 rout of the Tennessee Titans at Alltel Stadium Sunday. They were afterthoughts in the AFC South as the Indianapolis Colts were winning their first 13 games. They didn't play one Monday night game. They may have been lightly regarded because they're a young team that had many ups and downs in terms of consistency in performance, yet their four losses were by an average margin of 7.8 points. Their last eight wins came against teams that finished with a combined record of 27-69.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that Bill Belichick used the word "Tough" to describe the Jaguars. ''They're well-balanced and they're tough across the board," he said. ''They've come from behind in a lot of their wins. They've played well on the road, so I think they've shown that they are a physical and a mentally tough team. They can play in any conditions against any type of competition. That's why they are 12-4." John Tomase of the Boston Herald and Tom Curran of the Providence Journal both offer similar articles.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his weekly Patriots report card.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that after struggling in the kick return game virtually all season, the Patriots might have stumbled upon a viable alternative in receiver André Davis. Davis showed good burst Sunday with a 65-yard kick return against the Dolphins. His first kick return of the season also was the team's longest, besting a 54-yarder by regular return man Bethel Johnson. "We've been looking for big plays in the kicking game, and (Davis) gave us one," special teams captain Larry Izzo said. "He did a really good job of reading where the hole was. He's got a lot of speed, so when he hits that opening, he can do some damage." Add a 38-yarder by Tim Dwight, and the Pats had one of their most productive days of the season. They'll have an opportunity to make some noise against the Jaguars' 26th-ranked coverage units when the playoffs begin Saturday.
Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal writes that the Patriots found a way to fight through their adversity and find a new season, a new life. And while they have yet to play against a top quarterback in the last month, have no doubt benefitted by playing within their weak division, they now enter the playoffs a different team than they were five weeks ago, even if it's just confidence.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analysis of the Patriots 28-26 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.