John Powers of The Boston Globe looks to Sunday's game in St. Louis, pointing out the Rams are not quite the vaunted powerhouse they were when the Patriots beat them in the Super Bowl. "Since they lost to New England on the final play of Super Bowl XXXVI 2 1/2 years ago, the Rams have gone 7-9 (after starting 0-5) and 12-4, losing to Carolina (remember them?) in double overtime in the playoffs. Now, they're 4-3 and coming off an embarrassing loss to the league's worst team," writes Powers.
In his notebook, Reid Laymance of the Globe looks at the injury report. Corey Dillon and David Givens remain questionable, while Deion Branch is doubtful. Then, of course, is the cornerback position, where the team will be without both starters, Ty Law and Tyrone Poole. "With Law and Poole out, more of the burden will fall to veteran safety Rodney Harrison, but Belichick doesn't see that as a problem," writes Laymance.
Rich Thompson of The Boston Herald examines the Rams speedy offense, and looks at how Belichick might combat the unit with his makeshift secondary. "The Rams offense revolves around a deep passing game that was developed to stretch opposing defenses on the artificial turf. St. Louis is currently third in the NFC in total offense (375.4 yards per game), fourth in passing (264.1), third in first downs made (145) and fifth in red zone scoring (12 TDs in 19 trips inside the 20-yard line)," Thompson writes.
In his notebook, Thompson notes the similar career trajectories of this weekend's opposing quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Marc Bulger, two men who earned their starting jobs by unseating pro-bowl caliber predecessors. "The main difference between Bulger and Brady was how their coaches perceived the quarterbacks. Patriots coach Bill Belichick [news] did not want Brady to emulate Bledsoe. Rams coach Mike Martz, on the other hand, groomed Bulger to be another Warner," writes Thompson.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal looks back at the Rams horrendous loss in Miami two weeks ago, pointing out their defense is as bad as their offense is good. "The Rams offense is sometimes referred to as The Greatest Show on Turf. Their defense is simply a horror show," writes Curran.
In his notebook, Curran delves into the injury situation, one that has made this week's game preparation extra difficult. "With so many key players listed as 50-50 for Sunday's game with St. Louis, the Patriots face the dilemma of making sure everyone gets enough snaps in case they wind up being the one that plays most of the game," writes Curran.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call supports the notion that the Rams defense is just as, if not more, vulnerable than the Patriots D heading into this weekend's shootout. "The Rams are one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL," writes Parente. "With nine starters who've been in the league less than four years, the Rams clearly have speed on defense, but they're also inexperienced and the numbers prove it."
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant reports Branch was spotted in the Pats locker room this week, likely a sign he is on his way back sooner than later. As Greenberg points out, the receiving corps has done quite well in Branch's absence, though this is not to suggest the team will not welcome back the third-year receiver with open arms. "In the NFL, as in all sports, one man's injury is another man's opportunity," writes Greenberg. "With Branch and Troy Brown injured for most of the season, the Davids, Givens and Patten, have adeptly replaced them, showing why this is the deepest group of quality wide receivers the Patriots have ever had."
Ian Clark of The Union Leader proposes this could be another tough weekend for the Pats, but even if they lose, he asserts, there is no need to get carried away. "There are two words you should keep in mind if New England falls this weekend. Those words are "big and "deal." There's plenty of evidence in this team's recent (and not coincidentally successful) history that shows that the panic button does not need your fingerprints any time soon," Clark writes.