The big news coming from the Patriots locker room surrounds first-round draft pick Benjamin Watson. The team announced yesterday that Watson would be placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed knee injury, ending his rookie campaign. "Watson caught 10 passes in exhibition games to lead Patriot receivers and started in the opener against Indianapolis, in which he presumably injured the knee," writes Nick Cafardoof The Boston Globe.
Cafardo also reports on the team's efforts to get past last year's 31-0 opening-day drubbing in Buffalo. "It's been a week of buildup to this game. Nobody really expects the Patriots to lose except for a few hopeful Bills fans," writes Cafardo. "Still, [Tom] Brady tried to explain why losing a game like last year's was so crummy and why the Patriots can't prepare the way they did for that loss."
Jackie MacMullen of the Globe notes Bill Belichick's disinterest in discussing the Patriots winning streak. "He has no time for and no interest in chasing the 1989-90 San Francisco 49ers or the 1972-73 Miami Dolphins or the 1933-34 Chicago Bears or the other three teams that have won 18 straight," writes MacMullen.
In his notebook, Michael Felgerof The Boston Herald reports on the Watson injury. He also mentions that wide receiver Deion Branch is doubtful for Sunday's game, while Kevin Faulk will be listed as questionable.
Felger also previews a defense that is sure to be salivating at the sight of Drew Bledsoe, the game's most often sacked quarterback. "The Pats have sacked Bledsoe 11 times in four meetings the past two years," writes Felger. "Do the math. The Pats players have, although they certainly aren't going to admit it."
Steve Conroy of the Herald writes that Brady has extra motivation this week, as he attempts to avenge his dismal performance in Buffalo last season. "We played terrible, I played terrible and I still remember the game," Brady told Conroy. "You go into the season and you're anxious to start the year and you say, 'We're going to get off to a great start.' Then you go 0-1 and you throw four picks, your confidence takes a big hit."
Bill Reynolds of The Providence Journal examines Belichick's evolution from aloof strategist in Cleveland to being the measure of all coaches in New England. "Belichick has become the new template of what an NFL coach should be, the league's new designated coaching genius," writes Reynolds. "Winning two of the last three Super Bowls will do that. So will coaching a team that's become the model for the contemporary professional sports team, one that's focused, dedicated, a group where the sum of the parts is greater than the individual pieces."
Tom Curran of the Journal reports on Watson's injury, and his replacement, free agent Jed Weaver, who the Patriots signed yesterday. "Weaver began his career in Philadelphia in 1999, out of Oregon. He spent three seasons in Miami, and last year was with San Francisco before signing with Denver, which released him at the end of training camp despite signing him to a three-year deal worth a little more than $3 million," writes Curran.
Curran also reports on the growing tension in Buffalo between the struggling team and their famously passionate fans who want to see a winner. "Patience is at a premium in Buffalo right now," writes Curran. "And with the 2-0 Super Bowl-champion Patriots visiting the 0-2 Bills Sunday, the potential for game-altering, home-crowd ugliness is very real."
In his notebook, Curran compares the recent career trajectories of Brady and Bledsoe. "This week, the once and current kings of the Patriots meet for the fifth time since Brady unseated an injured Bledsoe in 2001 and Bledsoe was eventually catapulted to Buffalo," writes Curran.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant also juxtaposes the fortunes of the two quarterbacks, as they are inevitably intertwined with the fortunes of their respective franchises. "Since [the midway point of the 2002 season] the Bills' record is 9-17, including this season's 0-2, and Bledsoe has thrown 21 TD passes and 23 interceptions. In that time, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 41 TD passes and 20 interceptions," writes Greenberg.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News highlights Bills coach Mike Mularkey's penchant for using trick plays. "Mularkey and quarterbacks coach San Wyche are known to regularly include a few wrinkles in their playbook," writes Reiss. Reiss also notes that the team is constantly on the lookout for trick plays, and should be well prepared to handle Mularkey's malarkey.
Reiss' notebook includes Watson, Bledsoe, Lawyer Milloy, and Willis McGahee.
In The Woonsocket Call, Michael Parentepoints out that the Bills are built around their defense, which, despite the team's 0-2 record, leads the league in run defense thus far. "It all starts with their front seven, which features an eclectic mix of speedy pass-rushers, beefy tackles plugging up the middle and veteran run-stoppers at linebacker," writes Parente. "The Bills have virtually the same starting lineup from last season, which ranked second in the NFL in defense."