So sorry to be in the minority, but am I the only one left who still thinks Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli are smarter than everyone else? I like where the team is at: The Patriots have a solid, young offensive line and defensive line; a franchise quarterback and wide receiver, and role players who do not act like they are superstars. The party line has always been the same: win here, or get gobs of money and lose elsewhere. David Givens waned to be a number one receiver without Deion Branch being in his way; Adam Vinatieri already had made up his mind to pursue Hall of Fame (i.e. Personal) goals over championships (and hey, he has three rings, that is his right); Damien Woody, Ty Law, Ted Washington, Tom Ashworth, Lawyer Milloy, and more have seen the green and still the machine soldiers on.

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Speaking of the offensive line, I meant to comment on it, but kept typing Rick Krusher instead of Nick Kazcur and was so embarrassed that I just junked the column. Thank God for the internet and Mike Reiss at the Boston Globe. Here is a quick breakdown of the Patriots biggest strength (and reason why Corey Dillon will rush for 1250 yards and 10 touchdowns next season):

Left tackle Matt Light: Matt Light, next door neighbor of a former co-worker of mine (who is, unfortunately a Cowboys fan), was out of action most of last season. With Light, who is on the cusp of being a Pro Bowl performer, back to keep Tom Brady upright next season, the whole offensive line gets better by default.
Left guard Logan Mankins: The Whotheheckwasthat pick of the first round last season turned in a solid season at guard. To think, he should improve and give the Pats a solid left side to run through ala Seattle.
Center Dan Koppen: The biggest loss last season, I was amazed that the team withstood the loss of Koppen and plugged in Russ Hochstein and kept motoring until Tom Brady finally broke down in the Denver playoff game.
Right guard Stephen Neal: Without doubt, the most important signing by the Patriots. Neal still has upside and is a mauler in the run blocking game.
Right tackle Nick Kaczur: The rookie from Toledo looked lost a few times last season plugged in at left tackle, but showed improvement over the course of the season. Again, 2005 set the stage for 2006 with so many young kids getting a shot they normally would not have in a playoff situation. Although the pundits drooling to write the Patriots obituary would never admit it, that is a huge part of the development of the younger players.

Right tackle Brandon Gorin, Center/guard Russ Hochstein: Two solid, young veterans who have started in the Super Bowl. How many teams have that sitting on their bench? Also, the Patriots will bring in their annual veteran guard and have a couple of undrafted free agents around for Dante Scarnecchia to work his magin on over the course of training camp and the season.

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The Boston press has got to stop with the constant Johnny Damon updates. WE DO NOT CARE! Johnny & the Pole-Dancing Honey (I mean, his lovely wife) are installing a swing in their bedroom? TOO MUCH INFORMATION! (Now if it were Nomar and Mia, that would be news. But the real question would be who was sitting in the swing? Can we officially refer to Nomar as Mrs. Hamm and Mia as Mr. Garciaparra? As the Captain says: Make it so!)

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Alas, poor bracket, I knew ye well. The less said about my Final Four picks, the better. Villanova and Texas were solid picks, as both made the Elite Eight. Anyone who picked George Mason should be out buying lottery tickets. UCLA was just better than I thought (maybe I was thinking about their football team). Anyway, I was watching more golf and pre-season Sox games than college basketball this weekend, as there were some great games on the hardwood, but some real clunkers as well. Anyway, this is Boston: we just cannot be bothered with college basketball.

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