By: Bob George/
January 19, 2008

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

Has Igor Olshansky shut up yet?

The guy would never make it as a Patriot. Bragging that the Patriots had better be thinking about his team usually leads to his team getting killed and him being made the scapegoat. Look what happened to Anthony Smith of Pittsburgh, who became a symbol of buffoonery after guaranteeing a Steeler win over the Patriots a month ago.

Olshansky, Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman and, to a lesser extent, LaDainian Tomlinson have said a few things in the past which can rub the Patriots the wrong way, things which trace back to last year's playoff game between the Patriots and the Chargers. Naturally, the Chargers don't care much about how the Patriots always use the slightest thing as bulletin board material, but word has it that Norv Turner put the kibosh on all further incidents of running smack at the Patriots.

The Patriots really don't need more locker room fodder, though it doesn't hurt. What do they need to do to win, keep their perfect season going and punch their ticket to Super Bowl XLII? Read on.

Leave Randy alone!

They wouldn't shut up with Corey Dillon. The guy wins a Vince, becomes a model citizen, and he still managed to get grumpy here in New England. The media wouldn't let him alone. Dillon did everything asked of him. All he wanted to do was win. He made good on all his promise. At no point did he turn into anything resembling high maintenance.

Randy Moss is heading down the same path. He gets some temporary restraining order slapped on him by some old ladyfriend of his down in Florida of questionable origin. He hasn't been charged with any crime. This lady picks now to try and grab as much press as she can, rather than bring this upon Moss during the bye week, when this "accident" allegedly happened. Yet the media has taken this story and twisted it so much that the order must be against Gumby rather than Moss.

Now, of course, the "D" word comes up. Distraction. Moss had only one catch against Jacksonville, and this restraining order is why. Moss has ruined his record breaking season, is now no longer the model citizen we thought he was, and this one singular incident will lead to the destruction of this team and ruin its chance at a most unique place in history.


Message to all media types: Leave Randy Moss alone. There is no distraction. He caught only one pass in the Jacksonville game because that was likely the plan. He will be a decoy all during the playoffs because of what a great season he has had. Teams will double and triple team him, but that will mean that Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Ben Watson, Jabar Gaffney and Kevin Faulk will have plenty of open receiving lanes. Oh, and Laurence Maroney will probably be right around 100 yards rushing from here on in, like he was against Jacksonville.

And did anyone at all notice the nice blocks Moss threw on several occasions on Saturday night? Why have these blocks never come up in any discussion? Moss was exactly as advertised. He wants to win. He hasn't lost yet as a Patriot. And he hasn't complained one iota when Tom Brady can't get him the ball ten or more times a game.

Just let Moss alone and let him 1) help win the last two games, and 2) let him handle this mess in Florida in his own way.

Is Billy Volek the new A.J. Feeley?

Before you dismiss Billy Volek as someone akin to Daniel in the chamber of the lions, ask Tony Dungy what he thinks of Rivers' backup.

Backup. Yikes. Look what happened the last time the Patriots faced a backup quarterback (don't count the Miami game, who down there passes off as a starter?). A.J. Feeley nearly did to the Patriots as an Eagle what he did for them as a Dolphin late in the 2004 season. Feeley's furious rally to defeat the Patriots on that Monday night in Miami was eerily similar to his near conquest of the Patriots during Week 11. Feeley did shoot himself down with two key interceptions. Will Volek do the same?

One problem in dealing with Volek, if Rivers cannot go on Sunday, is a lack of body of work to study. His previous career is mostly as a Tennessee Titan, backing up Steve McNair. If all Bill Belichick has to go on was his fourth quarter performance last Sunday at Indianapolis, it may not be good enough to reveal tendencies and projected thought processes.

Maybe it won't matter. Maybe Rivers will actually play, though reports from San Diego say his injury is extended to his ACL and not just his MCL which would make his playing a huge reach. Volek, given his lack of long-term game experience, could fall prey to confusing defensive packages Belichick can throw at him.

One thing the Patriots won't do is take him lightly.

25 years ago, it was about like Antarctica

Forecasts for Foxborough say that the temperature for the game could be as low as the teens. For a team from a temperate climate like San Diego (and you don't get more temperate than San Diego), that's a definite advantage for the home team. But if you're Dan Fouts, temperatures in the teens are balmy compared to some of the frigid stuff he's been in.

The Chargers were involved in the coldest NFL game on record. The 1981 AFC Championship Game was played in Cincinnati during a hideous cold snap in the Midwest. According to a Globe article which ran Friday, the game time temperature at Riverfront Stadium was --9 degrees, with a wind chill factor of --59 degrees. The Bengals had an easy time with the visitors from California, who had no chance on that horrible day in those unbearable conditions. Cincinnati won, 27-7, to gain entry into Super Bowl XVI.

This Sunday in Foxborough won't be anywhere near that cold. The 2003 playoff game with Tennessee, which was --4 degrees at kickoff, didn't come anywhere near that game in Cincinnati. But the visiting Titans still played the Patriots tough and lost by only three points. How will San Diego fare in these cold conditions? San Diego is a lot warmer overall than Nashville. You really cannot compare the 1981 Chargers with the Chargers of today, but it does bear some thought.

"Act like you've won before!"

Everyone remembers Tomlinson going after Ellis Hobbs after last year's 24-21 Patriot win at San Diego in the Divisional round. A sound byte is also out there which shows Rivers screaming at the Patriots, telling them to act like they've won before. Tomlinson went off on Belichick and the Patriots in the postgame press conference, but one has to wonder who was more upset, Tomlinson or Rivers.

Face it, these two teams dislike each other a great deal. The Chargers would love nothing better than to avenge last year's sickening (for them) loss at home. The Patriots, meanwhile, would love to stick it to San Diego mindful of the 41-17 loss they laid on the Patriots here at Gillette Stadium in 2005. The 38-14 win earlier this year is being written off by most everyone as non-significant because the Chargers were still getting used to new head coach Turner. This Charger team has its act together, is more fearsome, and is on an eight-game win streak.

But the memory of last year will be a great motivator for the Chargers. They will play with tremendous energy and enthusiasm in trying to ruin the Patriots' perfect season. That element may be more important to them than trying to exact revenge from last year, but the revenge factor will definitely be a part of the Charger game plan on Sunday.

Fans are complacent, fortunately the head coach isn't

Hmmm. Did the Chargers really do the Patriots a favor in dispatching the Colts?

Belichick went to great lengths to make sure his team knows how dangerous the Chargers are, with or without their key offensive starters. While most Patriot fans everywhere were rejoicing that they don't have to worry about Peyton Manning and his gang, they may not fully realize that they still have to beat the San Diego Chargers to make it to Super Bowl XLII. Beating San Diego may not be as easy as everyone thinks, but Belichick is the one man who will keep the Patriots focused on the Chargers and not Glendale, Arizona.

The biggest challenge Belichick may have, as mentioned earlier, will be how to adequately defense Volek if he is the one who gets most of the snaps under center. If Volek was able to do what he did in Indianapolis, he could certainly pick up where he left off in Foxborough.

Odds are that Belichick will have come up with just the right game plan, the players won't bring their "C" game to the table, and the Patriots have too much of a manpower edge to allow an upset to happen. But make no mistake, Belichick won't be relaxing on Sunday just because it's the Chargers and not the Colts on the other side of the field.

For all the people who were disappointed in no Patriots-Colts matchup, please don't tell the Chargers. They don't need any more motivation.