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As the Patriots get set to start the season tomorrow night, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe notes Bill Belichick took his own approach to this year's preseason. "His approach this summer seemed not to be on winning games that didn't count -- a departure from the past -- but on taking care of his veteran players to see that they didn't wear down," writes Cafardo.
Looking ahead to the showdown with the Colts, Cafardo points out both teams have accomplished kickers, and special teams may be the deciding factor in the game.
Michael Felger of The Boston Herald writes the Patriots will be keeping a close eye on Colts running back Edgerrin James. "Indianapolis never made the Pats prove they could stop James. Perhaps that will happen tomorrow night when the Colts and Pats renew acquaintances at Gillette," writes Felger.
Felger also reviews the conspiracy theory that will be a much talked about subplot tomorrow night. Colts head coach Tony Dungy was on the rules committee this offseason, and many believe that some of the new rules, specifically the new emphasis on illegal contact, are directed at the Patriots defense.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call also looks at the new points of emphasis, but points out something that many seem to have forgotten, the rules go both ways. "While the perception is that the new enforcements will hurt the Patriots on defense, Belichick said his receivers are also benefiting from the points of emphasis, as evident by some of the call that went their way in the preseason," writes Parente.
The running game will be lacking depth tomorrow night, as Felger reports number two running back Kevin Faulk will not be in Foxboro to take on the Colts. "That became clear when the Patriots released their injury report yesterday and third-down back Kevin Faulk was listed as out with 'personal reasons.' Faulk has been home in Louisiana tending to his ill mother and, while he is also recovering from a knee injury, that is not the reason for his absence," writes Felger.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal says without Faulk, you can expect the Patriots to pass a lot tomorrow night. "After playing connect-the-dots with some of the team's recent roster decisions, it's likely that (for this week, at least) establishing ground dominance isn't a priority," writes Curran.
Curran notes these two teams are very familiar with each other, and it is a good bet that each will try to show the other some new looks. "[The Patriots] don't know what Indy has up its sleeve this time and, if Indy is smart, whatever it is will be more than a little different from the things that didn't work last January," writes Curran.
Here are highlights from Curran's online Pats chat from last evening.
The Journal also includes the official injury lists for both teams.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant previews the play of Ty Law, one player expected to be affected by the rule changes, but also a player who victimized the Colts in last year's AFC Championship. "When the Patriots played the Titans in the AFC divisional playoffs, Steve McNair did not even dare throw to Law's side of the field. Manning did, and paid the price," writes Greenberg.
In The Portland Press Herald, Mike Lowe looks at the fanfare surrounding the NFL's opening game. "The game will have all the wrappings of a mini-Super Bowl: a pregame concert including Elton John, Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, Toby Keith, Lenny Kravitz, the Boston Pops (and Jessica Simpson via satellite from Jacksonville, Fla.), fireworks, confetti and craziness all around," writes Lowe.
In today's notebook, Ian Clark of The Union Leader discusses what has become a standard trajectory for defensive linemen under Belichick, citing the experience of second-year man Ty Warren. "Last season, the string continued as Warren was mentored by [Bobby] Hamilton, [Anthony] Pleasant and even [Richard] Seymour, who has developed into a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a leader," writes Clark.