As we begin to look ahead to a Super Bowl XXXIX showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe takes a look back at the last time the two teams met in the regular season. In week 2 of the 2003 season, both teams were 0-1, coming off surprising shutouts. Patriots fans were calling for Bill Belichick's head, after he had unceremoniously cut the popular Lawyer Milloy just before Week 1, while the Eagles fans were demanding A.J Feely be given Donavan McNabb's starting QB spot. Considering the teams are a combined 60-9 since the Patriots beat Philly 31-10 at Lincoln Financial Field, it is a good thing the two teams did not listen to the so-called "experts."
Bob Ryan of the Globe compares the success of the Patriots with that of the old Boston Celtics, built up by Red Auerbach in the 1960's.
Ron Borges of the Globe looks back at the Steelers game, and heaps praise on rookie nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who stood his ground in the face of a powerful Pittsburgh rushing attack.
Frank Dell'Apa of the Globe features Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, long-considered one of the league's brightest minds. Reid brought the Eagles to four consecutive NFC title games, and finally got the win in his fourth try.
Also in the Globe, Robert Johnson discusses the logistical madness facing those heading for Jacksonville. Because the sprawling Florida city is woefully unprepared for an event of the Super Bowl's magnitude, there is a major shortage of hotel rooms for the week of the game.
Gerry Callahan of The Boston Herald congratulates the Eagles, but contends a blowout awaits them in Florida.
Kevin Mannix of the Herald reviews Sunday's AFC title game, and dishes out his unit-by-unit marks. The Professor gives A's to all three defensive units, while he is critical of the offensive line and running backs, who failed to get very much going.
Michael Felger of the Herald writes about the current crossroads facing the New England coaching staff. Super Bowl XXXIX will be the last hurrah for the team of Belichick, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weis. Weis, the offensive coordinator, will leave after the season to become the head football coach at Notre Dame, while Crennel, the defensive mastermind, is expected to be offered the Cleveland Browns top post. Belichick will remain in New England, but will go on here without two of his closest and most long-time friends. What a way to go out together.
Skip Wood of USA Today gives credit to both Crennel and his Philadelphia counterpart, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Crennel and Johnson have used their creative capacities to build two of the league's finest defenses.
**Jarret Bell** of USA Today and **Pete Prisco** of CBS.sportsline.com examine the Patriots no-respect mantra, as the team has fueled itself by the notion that fans and other teams don't believe they can succeed week-after-week or year-after-year.
Larry Weisman of USA Today looks at the Eagles receiving corps, a group that continues to receive more bad news. Already facing the prospect of playing the Bowl without stud wideout Terrell Owens, who has been sidelined since mid-December with a broken leg, the Eagles realized yesterday they will also be without tight end Chad Lewis. Lewis, one of two talented tight ends Philly employs, along with L.J. Smith, caught two McNabb touchdowns in Sunday's NFC title game against Atlanta.
**Bill Reynolds** of The Providence Journal and **Alan Greenberg** of The Hartford Courant discuss the undeniable genius of Belichick. Belichick has taken center stage once again in the playoffs, crafting two distinctly different, but perfect, game plans for Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
Joe McDonald of the Journal reports some much-needed rest for the weary champions. After wrapping a post-game team meeting after 4AM Monday, the team was sent home until Thursday, at which point the team will reconvene to learn the Philly game plan.
In his notebook, Tom Curran of the Journal reports on the atmosphere of the losing locker room in Pittsburgh.
John Altavilla of the Courant reads between the lines of the Owens topic. While Owens injury was very serious, he has done an excellent job with his rehab and will do his absolute best to be on the field February 6th.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News lauds the play of the Pats D-line, which met the Pittsburgh challenge without All-Pro tackle Richard Seymour. Jarvis Green took personally the talk of Seymour's absence limiting the team, and had another solid game. Meanwhile, second-year end Ty Warren was simply sensational, making eight tackles and chasing down Steelers workhorse Jerome Bettis on more than one occasion.
The Standard Times runs an article by Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News, in which Cowlishaw juxtaposes the blind faith that could favor the Eagles with the cold, hard facts that favor a Patriots team that has been here before.
In his notebook, Ian Clark of The Union Leader reviews the remarkable efforts of Deion Branch, who scored two touchdowns against Pittsburgh in the title game.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call gives his unit-by-unit grades for the championship performance. Parente give high marks pretty much across the board, criticizing only the special teams for a poor punt by Josh Miller than led to a Pittsburgh field goal.
ESPN.com's Greg Garber wonders aloud how T.O can possibly not play in the Super Bowl. Owens loves the limelight and, as Garber contends, it would be surprising to see him stay on the sideline of the world's biggest stage.
Also, ESPN.com is reporting the Eagles will sign Jeff Thomason to replace Chad Lewis at tight end and as backup to long snapper Mike Bartrum. Thomason played ten seasons for the Bengals, Packers, and Eagles, but has been retired for two seasons.
Jason Whitlock of KansasCity.com uses the infusion of energy a star like Terrell Owens brought to Philadelphia as a perfect example of why he believes the Chiefs should make it their top offseason priority to sign Patriots cornerback Ty Law.