No matter how much longer they're on it, the Patriots' playoff ride will no longer include tight end Rob Gronkowski. But now for the burning question this morning: can they still accomplish the mission without him? Can the Pats get to the Super Bowl, and close the deal without their all-world tight end? The answer to the first part of the Super Bowl query really isn't all that difficult. They can beat Baltimore next week without Gronk. ... Might not having his presence in the red zone hurt them against the San Francisco 49ers or Atlanta Falcons should they get to the Super Bowl? Perhaps, but not having their 6-foot-6, 265-pound matchup nightmare isn't going to prevent them from getting there. (Boston Herald) Comment
Pacers coach Frank Vogel insisted Sunday he wasn't trying a send a message by sitting center Roy Hibbert during Saturday's game against the Bobcats. It was more about how well Hibbert's backup, Ian Mahinmi, has been playing lately. "I considered sitting (Hibbert) for that game anyway because he had been dealing with back spasms and were going into a back-to-back (games)," Vogel said. For as well as Hibbert has played protecting the paint defensively, he's struggled defending the pick-and-roll an area that Mahinmi is clearly better than him at. "Ian was great at guarding the pick-and-rolls (against Charlotte)," Vogel said. "Roy was, too. Ian was doing it a little better." (Indianapolis Star) Comment
Peyton Manning, of course, wishes the offseason hadn't already arrived for him, but, to some degree, he's already looking ahead. [Manning] was buoyed by how the single-digit temperatures that fell upon Sports Authority Field at Mile High enabled him to get a jump on his preparation for the next time he faces such "That was another good hurdle for me," Manning said in an interview with The Denver Post. "Weather-wise, we had not had anything like that all season. There was some unknown going into that game. You can't simulate it. I tried everything from putting my hand in a freezing tank. But you just can't simulate it. Next year, the Super Bowl's in New York. So that was a good hurdle for me to be effective in those type of conditions." (Denver Post) Comment
Matt Bryant reacts to his game-winning kick to send Atlanta past the Seahawks 30-28 Sunday and into the NFC Championship Game. (AP)
In case you missed it over the weekend, Jack Nicholson and Adman Sandler raised the white flag on the Lakers' game game with Oklahoma City Friday night, and maybe on the season as well.