Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe offers a preview of this Sunday's Patriots - Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Solomon writes that New England beat Buffalo at Gillette Stadium Oct. 30 in a game in which they scored the winning touchdown with a little more than five minutes remaining, so they are expecting a tough test this week at Orchard Park anyway. But the Bills' solid play at home is more cause for concern. Buffalo is 4-2 this season on its home turf, with the two losses coming to Atlanta and Carolina in games that were decided in the fourth quarter. "It's kind of interesting to see a team that has played so well at home," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ''They've really statistically, and even just on tape, I'm not saying it's a different team, but sometimes they just look so much at a higher level at home. Let's put it that way. That's something that's impressive, and very concerning."
Jackie MacMullan of the Boston Globe writes that In the midst of the grim reality of what injuries can do to decimate a once-impenetrable lineup, the reemergence of Colvin has been one of the true bright spots in an otherwise disconcerting season. Last Sunday against the Jets, when Colvin burst through the line and flattened Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger before he even had a chance to take a name or number, he looked like the old Rosey. "This season I wanted to prove that I was who I was before. I want to be a dominant player again," said Colvin.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reports that on Tuesday, wide receiver Deion Branch was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at the Broward County Convention Center taping the 10th anniversary installment of Wheel of Fortune NFL Players Week, which will air Jan. 23-27. Branch squared off against 14 other NFL players from the past and present, a list that included Atlanta's Warrick Dunn, Washington's Santana Moss, Miami's Jason Taylor and Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne, along with Hall of Famers Bob Griese (Miami), Franco Harris (Pittsburgh) and Gayle Sayers (Chicago). All of the winnings from the NFL players were donated to their favorite charities.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe offers a story on Artrell Hawkins move from cornerback to the safety postion. Hawkins is expected to start his third game at safety. Before coming to the Patriots, Hawkins, a longtime cornerback had never taken a snap at the safety position. "It's like going from being a righthanded hitter to being a lefthanded hitter," coach Bill Belichick said. "Now you're seeing the game from inside out versus seeing the game from outside in. Some players can't make that transition adjustment. Some players see it better from one perspective or the other, for whatever reason." John Tomase of the Boston Herald also offers a similar article on Hawkins.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald takes a look at the play of rookie offensive lineman Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur. Guregian writes that Tom Brady sounded like their biggest cheerleader, talking about his comfort level standing in the pocket, as Kaczur and Mankins have attempted to hold off some of the NFL's best pass rushers. "I think those two guys in particular have really solidified the offensive line," Brady said. "What was a question mark earlier in the year, about how two young rookies can fill in, I think they've proven they're capable of being terrific players. They're really showing what they're made of. They play with toughness, and they're smart players. I'm very comfortable having them in there."
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Sunday against the Jets, running back Kevin Faulk slipped back into the lineup and provided stark evidence that though he may often go overlooked, his impact cannot be underestimated. "He's a weapon, just getting the ball in his hands," Bills head coach Mike Mularkey said of Faulk. "He's a special player, especially on third down. Not a lot of backs in the league can do what he does." For all the ink spilled over the absence of key players from the Patriots lineup, relatively little of it was spent on Faulk. The Pats missed Rodney Harrison and Corey Dillon and Dan Koppen and Tedy Bruschi, but Faulk typically merited nothing more than a footnote. Against the Jets, however, he provided a glimpse of his worth, converting third downs on three scoring drives with receptions that few other running backs in the league could be expected to make under the same circumstances
Michael Parente of The Pawtucket Times writes that with a chance to take over sole possession of second place in the AFC East and put pressure on division-leading New England, the Bills blew a 21-point lead against Miami and lost their third consecutive game Sunday. They're now 4-8 and on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention with the Patriots visiting Ralph Wilson Stadium this weekend.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the Buffalo Bills are 4-8 and have lost five out of six, including a fourth-quarter meltdown of epic proportions Sunday in Miami. Yesterday, they sat down the player that's been the team's hood ornament over the last decade -- wide receiver Eric Moulds. "I hadn't been on that end of a loss like that," said Bills head coach Mike Mularkey. "It's very disappointing. It hits you. But . . . you have to at some point get over it. Sometimes they don't have a choice on things that happen, but they certainly have a choice in how they react to it. I'm interested to see how they respond off of it. With Moulds suspension, the Bills lose their leading receiver this season with 54 catches for 511 yards.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the Bills have allowed 74 points in six home games this season, an average of a little more than 12 points per game. Easily their most eye-opening defensive performance of the season came during their last home game, when they held the high-powered Chiefs to a field goal in a 14-3 Buffalo win. "The Chiefs haven't been held to three points in, I don't know, it's been a long time," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "They've been in the 20s, 30s and 40s in all of the other games except that one. We know better than anybody, Kansas City is an explosive offensive football team and they can track it up and down the field, but not against Buffalo, and nobody has done that to them at home. It's just kind of like when we went into Kansas City and we said that nobody had scored on Kansas City in the first quarter. Well, now we're going up to Buffalo, and nobody has scored on them in the first quarter, either." The Bills are 4-8 and reeling, but this is not a game for the Patriots to take lightly. In fact, of their remaining games, this may be the most difficult one for the Patriots to win.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that the Patriots haven't played in Buffalo in December since 2001. They also played in Buffalo in December 2000. Both those games were low scoring (13-10, 12-9) because of cold, wind and snow, and both were won by the Patriots in overtime on an Adam Vinatieri field goal. The long-range forecast calls for temperatures in the low 30s and snow showers Sunday. If the Patriots (7-5) beat the Bills (4-8) Sunday and the Dolphins (5-7) lose to the Chargers (8-4) in San Diego, the Patriots would clinch the AFC East title for the third consecutive season. The Patriots will more than likely be the conference's No. 4 playoff seed and host a wild card game the weekend of Jan. 7-8.
Chris Kennedy of The Republican offers a candid look at Bills quarterback J.P. Losman. Losman, a struggling second-year quarterback who is expected to start for the Buffalo Bills Sunday against the visiting New England Patriots, was raised along with six other children by his single mother in a two-bedroom apartment in the famed beach locale of Venice, which is not exactly Ozzie and Harriet territory. "No, it is not typical at all," Losman said yesterday via conference call. "It is very strange compared to the normal beaches in California. It's eclectic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic. "That is kind of what I am. I'm from two opposite cultures myself, from my parents. I think everyone's culture is accepted. It's pretty cool to grow up like that. You get a little bit of everything."
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.