The Patriots are in Jacksonville, where a growing number of pundits are expressing their dissatisfaction with the array of accommodations. Dan Shaughnessey of The Boston Globe advises fans not to head for Jacksonville, so that they can avoid the under prepared city as well as the rambunctious Eagles fans.
Also upset with conditions in Florida is head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick held several players out of practice yesterday because the practice field the team has been allotted at Bartram Trail high school was so slick from rain that the players were slipping all over the place. Nick Cafardoof the Globe and Michael Felgerof The Boston Herald chronicle the coach's displeasure.
One player Belichick kept sidelined yesterday was Pro-Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour, who has been out since December 26th with a knee injury. Karen Guregian of the Herald updates the status of the Patriots most important question mark.
Of course the Eagles big question mark is the health of receiver Terrell Owens. T.O practiced with the team yesterday, participating in a small percentage of the team's plays. Owens ran routes and caught balls in a performance his teammates called "smooth." It looks as if T.O will play on Sunday, which is excellent news for Eagles fans. For more on the T.O situation, check out Ron Borgesof the Globe, George Kimballof the Herald, John Altavillaof The Providence Journal, and Bob Grotzof The Woonsocket Call.
Should Owens appear on stage Super Bowl Sunday, it will mean extra work for the Patriots defensive backs. Owens, at 6'3 and 226 pounds, is bigger than the other Eagles receivers and has 2-4 inches on all of the Patriots DBs. While the secondary has certainly sparkled thus far in the playoffs, it is clear they have one more stiff challenge ahead of them. Kevin Mannixand Steve Conroyof the Herald, and Mark Blaudschunof the Globe cover the Patriots defensive backfield.
Conroy also looks at the Eagles secondary, a unit featuring three Pro-Bowlers in Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard, and Michael Lewis.
Dawkins is receiving much fanfare this week, as he will have the unique opportunity to play the Super Bowl in his hometown. Dawkins, a ninth year vet out of Clemson, has been with the Eagles his entire career, and has become one of the league's finest safeties. Altavilla and Don Banksof SportsIllustrated.com feature the Jacksonville native.
SI.com's feature matchup of the day is Dawkins versus Pats QB Tom Brady.
Dan Ventura of the Herald features Philly QB Donovan McNabb who, in his finest season as a pro, became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 30 touchdowns and less than ten interceptions in the same season.
Also in the Herald, Kimball features L.J Smith, the Eagles second-year tight end out of Rutgers. Smith, a player Philadelphia is very high on, will be asked to carry more of a workload with the injury to starting tight end Chad Lewis.
Bob Ryan of the Globe praises Eagles coach Andy Reid who, like Belichick, has Super Bowl experience and a penchant for bland disclosure.
Sean Smith of the Globe reviews the Eagles successful season game-by-game.
Jim McCabe spotlights Philly linebacker Dhani Jones. Jones, a former Michigan teammate of Brady, will now be asked to take down the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Bob Fedas of the Globe harkens back to Super Bowl XX, when the underdog Patriots were dismantled by Mike Ditka's Chicago Bears. Those Bears, like these Patriots, featured a star defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan, whom the team knew was coaching his last game with the team before moving on to be a head coach. Incidentally, Ryan left the Bears to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Patriots who will take to the field this Sunday are very different from the upstart wild-card team that made it to New Orleans in 1986. The 2004-05 Patriots are a division champion with a resume that includes two of the previous three big games. As Gary Mihoces of USA Today contends, this experience will serve the Patriots well.
One of the few Patriots players without the benefit of previous Super Bowl experience is star running back Corey Dillon, who the team acquired last April from Cincinnati in exchange for a second-round draft-pick. Dillon is excited to be on a winning team and, by most accounts, thrilled by the experience of being at the Super Bowl in his first year on a winning team. Tom Curranof The Providence Journal, Alan Greenbergof The Hartford Courant, Felger, and Michael Parenteof The Woonsocket Call discuss the mercurial ball carrier.
Bob Hohler of the Globe reports on Mike Vrabel earning his college degree from Ohio State last winter.
Nick Cafardo examines the Patriots wide receiver corps, an unheralded group that brings a variety of looks and big-play-making capabilities to the big game.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News zooms in on one such playmaker, third-year wideout Deion Branch. Branch was staggeringly good in last year's Super Bowl, catching 10 balls for 143 yards. Branch followed that primetime performance with another huge playoff game last week against Pittsburgh. Having missed the first game against the Steelers earlier in the year, Branch torched Pittsburgh for 116 yards and both a rushing and receiving touchdown.
Jarrett Bell of USA Today discusses the hard-hitting play of Rodney Harrison who, once again, has taken center stage in representing the Patriots "no-respect" mantra.
Also in USA Today, the Inside Slant breaks down the Patriots team unit-by-unit, and gives a general update of the team's stats in Jacksonville.