Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports on the Patriots linebackers, who have been reshuffled now that Junior Seau is out for the season. Reiss speaks to Mike Vrabel, whose move is the most dramatic since he'll be switching from outside linebacker to inside. Also, Tully Banta-Cain will move in as a starter at outside backer since the loss of Seau opened up a spot. Banta-Cain is a four-year player and he's played in every game this season, regularly taking the field on third downs.
The Boston Herald's John Tomase reports that the Lions should be no match for the Patriots this weekend. The Lions are 2-9 and rank near the bottom of the league in most categories. They're next-to-last in rushing. Twenty-sixth in total defense. Twenty-fifth in turnover differential. "And yet to hear Belichick tell it, they're nearly unstoppable, particularly on offense," writes Tomase. The writer breaks down the Lions based on a handful of Belichick's assertions.
Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal reports that the Patriots are preparing as though the Lions were undefeated. "We have to play better than we played last week," said Belichick. "Hopefully, we can have a good week of practice and perform better on Sunday and do a little better job coaching this week." McDonald explains that, "Every week it's the same mantra from the coach as his even-keel attitude obviously works, and the players live by it. No one in the Patriots' locker room will say anything controversial or call an opposing player or team out. Opponents don't have too much motivational bulletin-board material from the Patriots."
Mike Reiss offers The Boston Globe's Patriots Notebook, which includes a story on the Patriots mentality entering this week's game with the 2-9 Lions, as well as short pieces on Asante Samuel, Ryan O'Callaghan and Lions wideout Roy Williams.
John Tomase offers the Boston Herald's Patriots Notebook that features quarterback Tom Brady and his history of successful play in December. Also included is a short piece on Lions wideout Roy Williams and notes.
Joe McDonald has The Providence Journal's Patriots Notebook, announcing that cornerback Asante Samuel was named the Defensive Player of the Week after recording three interceptions against the Bears. Also included are pieces on Lions quarterback Jon Kitna, Patriots owner and CEO Robert Kraft and Tom Brady.
Albert Breer of the MetroWest Daily News reports that the Patriots defense will be facing former head coach of the Rams Mike Martz, now the Lions offensive coordinator. "They keep you off balance and they never run the same play twice," Belichick said of Martz-run offenses. "If they repeat a play, it's out of a different personnel group or a different formation. It's disguised differently, so you can't really key on the play until after the ball's snapped. That's when you have to recognize the play, when the ball's snapped."
Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald reports that punter Ken Walter's return was business as usual. "There was no reunion of any sorts," said Walter, whose jewelry collection includes rings from Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII during his previous employment with the Patriots. "They were my teammates. We won and lost a lot together. Some of those guys are still here, and there are new guys. You just learn to accept your role. You come in here, try not to miss a beat and don't do anything that's going to hurt the team."
Hartford Courant writer Alan Greenberg also brings a story on Walter. While punting to Bears rookie Devin Hester, who led the NFC in punt returns entering the game and had returned two for touchdowns this season, Walter forced Hester to fair catch two punts. The third went out of bounds. Walter also held the football for kicker Stephen Gostkowski who punched in a 52-yarder in the game.
Boston Globe correspondent Mike Lipka offers a story on the Westford-Littleton Pee Wee Lions, who play in the American Youth Football League. The team, comprised of 11 and 12-year-olds went 9-0 in the regular season and made it to the New England Super Bowl using coaching strategy modeled after that of Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. "The whole aspect is the old Patriots way -- that it's a team," coach Carlo Ferrante said. "The kids play for each other. It's not about one kid or two kids or anything else. It's just about the whole team."
Rich Garven of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that the Patriots defense is still having trouble making third-down stops. "I'd like for us to be at the top of the league on third-down defense," Belichick said of the spot currently occupied by the Bears. "That means we're getting off the field quicker and turning the ball over to the offense and having better field position." The Patriots defense is doing well in a number of categories, however. "There are times when we have had people who have driven the ball on us and we've played well in the red zone," linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "If we're not very good on third down, you better be pretty good in the red zone because third-down conversions lead to red-zone opportunities." The Patriots rank third in the league at red zone defense.
Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger offers his Patriots report card on last weekend's game and previews matchups in the upcoming duel between the Pats and the Lions.
USA Today offers its Inside Slant on the Patriots, updated today.