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Replay: Best of Radio Thu Apr 18 - 02:00 PM | Tue Apr 23 - 11:55 AM News Blitz 1/21/05

Championship weekend is here, and the Patriots appear ready for a physical battle with the 16-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams can run the ball and play tight defense, so the expected dumping of snow should not give either team a decided advantage.

Michael Silver of has a very nice feature on Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose kind spirit and generous nature has permeated the surrounding communities and all of Patriots Nation.

Ron Borges of The Boston Globe explains the way teams rate other teams' players with a specific color-coded system, and reports most teams have the Steelers and Patriots rated highly across the board.

Kevin Paul Dupont of the Globe features Steelers rookie sensation, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has won all 15 games he has started in his young NFL career.

Mark Blaudschun of the Globe is in Pittsburgh, and discusses the effect former UMass headman Mark Whipple has had as quarterbacks coach for the rookie phenom.

Amelie Benjamin of the Globe spotlights oft-overlooked fullback Patrick Pass. Pass, who has crawled his way up from the practice squad to the starting lineup during his years in New England, has been a solid contributor for Bill Belichick's offense. Whether it's blocking or taking a key third-down swing pass for 14 yards, as he did last weekend against Indianapolis, Pass has given the Pats his best effort.

Dan Shaughnessey of the Globe talks about Belichick and his ability to control a football game. As Shaughnessey points out, the one thing Belichick won't be able to control is the weather, which looks to be a factor in Sunday's tilt.

Also in the Globe, Bob Fedas reviews the previous four AFC Championship games the Pats have reached. New England is 4-0 when standing one step from the Super Bowl.

In his notebook, Nick Cafardo discusses the likelihood of Richard Seymour returning from a knee injury for Sunday's game.

Borges breaks down the individual units and matchups, and identifies advantages where they exist.

**Fluto Shinzawa** of the Globe, **Jarret Bell** of USA Today, and **Michael Parente** of The Woonsocket Call cover kicker Adam Vinatieri, whose knack for game-breaking, high-pressure kicks may take center stage once again in Pittsburgh.

In The Boston Herald, Michael Felger looks at the defensive line, a unit that has held tough through injuries and criticism, gelling into an incredibly tough-minded, unforgiving line of defense.

Steve Conroy of the Herald gives credit to the secondary, a unit that quieted countless critics last weekend by keeping history's most vaunted offense out of the endzone.

Karen Guregian of the Herald features #28, Corey Dillon. Dillon has been an unprecedented workhorse in New England, and Guregian conveys his teammates views of him.

In his notebook, Felger reports that key, run-stuffing linebacker Ted Johnson was held out of practice yesterday with the flu.

Felger also takes a look at Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who ran, sacked, and trash-talked right through the Patriots offense the last time the two teams met.

Tom Curran of The Providence Journal highlights the versatile cache of weapons the Pats boast on offense. Unlike the last few years, when the Pats succeeded without a discernible running game, this New England squad can kill opponents both on the ground and through the air.

Curran also looks at the stable of Steelers receivers, a very versatile group in its own right. Six-foot-six Plaxico Burress represents the ideal possession receiver with his ability to go over most defenders, but is also Pittsburgh's most potent deep threat (not to mention Roethlisberger's favorite target). Hines Ward just may be the league's toughest receiver, and often turns small gains into larger ones with his ability to outmuscle defenders. Slot-guy Antwan Randle-El, the former University of Indiana quarterback, is as speedy as they come, giving opposing teams fits both in coverage and as a return man.

Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant credits the Steelers for being a very tough, throwback sort of team.

Greenberg also spotlights linebacker Mike Vrabel, a former Steeler and current Patriots playmaker.

Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News got his hands on some top AFC assistants, and uses their knowledge to break down the game. Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray both coached against the Steelers and Patriots this season, and give Reiss tremendous insight to Sunday's party.

In the Call, Parente reviews Tom Brady's Halloween horror show in Pittsburgh, contending an improved performance is integral to the team's success.

Sam Farmer of The Los Angeles Times credits Kraft and Steelers owner Dan Rooney for being the gold standard for league owners.

On, Dr. Z, Paul Zimmerman, predicts a 24-17 Patriots win.

Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discusses the Steelers formidable running game, which figures to take center stage against New England this weekend.

Dulac also features Rooney and the excitement Pittsburgh is experiencing with the advent of this game.

In his notebook, Dulac discusses Steelers kicker Jeff Reed's respect for Vinatieri and whether Roethlisberger will be wearing a glove on his throwing hand on Sunday.

Josh Eliot of says Pittsburgh is the perfect setting for a big playoff game, and provides four potential-difference makers in this weekend's championship games.

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