Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that if the Bengals lose to the Chiefs, New England could enter postseason play as the AFC's No. 3 seed and host Pittsburgh (assuming the Steelers defeat the Lions on New Year's Day) rather than the higher-seeded Jaguars, who would be their opponent if New England finishes as the fourth seed.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that New England's front seven simply smoked Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger Monday night, stuffed running back Cedric Houston, and just dominated the Jets' makeshift offensive line in a 31-21 win. And the defense did all that in a mere 16:39 of playing time. It took the Jets until 5:30 of the third quarter to make a first down. Entering the regular season's final week, there isn't a more dominating defense in football. "If we can keep this up, we might be peaking at the right time," Seymour said. "We have a lot of pride in what we do out there. We're coming together as a team and we're trying to do our jobs individually and as a team."
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi hurt his left calf Monday night, leaving his immediate postseason status in question. Word among players on the sidelines was that Bruschi tore the muscle in a 31-21 victory over the Jets. He played through a similar injury to his right leg in Super Bowl XXXVIII, operating at less than peak effectiveness, but nonetheless taking the field. Sources close to Bruschi did not characterize the setback as devastating but noted the nagging nature of calf injuries, which can really limit a player's explosiveness. Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant also offers a story on Tedy Bruschi's injury.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his weekly Patriots report card. Over the last four games, the Pats have held opponents to a grand total of 125 rushing yards, for an average of 31 yards per game. As a result, they've catapulted up the league rankings from 27th in run defense to fourth. And the scoreboard has reflected it. After nine games, the Pats' defense bottomed out, ranking 30th in the NFL in points allowed (27.5 per game). In the six games since, they've shaved seven points off that average. Now they rank 17th (20.7). Felger gives a grade of A for the defensive line and A- for the linebacker.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that most critics are upset coach Bill Belichick uses key players like Bruschi on special teams, particularly now with the team already in the playoffs. At least, that has been at the heart of many of the rants. However, Using important players like Bruschi and Mike Vrabel on special teams, using wide receiver Troy Brown on defense, linebacker Vrabel on goal-line offense, is why the Patriots win. That kind of versatility is the hallmark and trademark of their teams. Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also offers a similar report.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Barring a 267-yard outburst in the season finale, Corey Dillon will fail to top 1,000 yards for only the second time in his nine-year career. That doesn't mean all of his numbers are down. Take, for instance, touchdowns. Despite missing basically four games to injury, Dillon tied his career high for touchdowns in a season during Monday's 31-21 victory over the Jets. He scored on a runs of 1 yard and 2 yards, giving him 13 scores (12 rushing, 1 receiving) and proving his legs still have life, particularly around the goal line. "This old fart can still get there," Dillon said. "But I don't even care. As long as we win, I don't care where the touchdowns come from. It's not like I set a goal of touchdowns before the season. All that matters is that they're in the act of helping the team win."
Mark Farinella of the Sun Chronicle writes that Mike Vrabel has six catches for six touchdowns in the regular season (an NFL record) and two more in playoff action for a total of eight career receptions and eight touchdowns. And still, teams haven't figured out that when Vrabel reports to the officials as an eligible receiver, he isn't kidding. The New York Jets were the latest to fail to cover No. 50, who shook loose Monday night for two touchdown catches (of 1 and 2 yards) as the Patriots prevailed, 31-21, in ABC's last Monday Night Football presentation.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analysis of New England's 31-21 win over the New York Jets.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.