...while celebrating my freedom from those damned rental shoes:
* Yes, the Patriots left too many points on the field Thursday night, and the defense couldn't get off it on third down when they had to. But after overcoming an 18-point deficit against a playoff team and rallying for a tying touchdown in the final 64 seconds, they can no longer be dismissed as a Super Bowl contender (provided, of course, they win at Miami next week).
* Over a five-day stretch, Matt Cassel probably just priced himself out of New England in the free agent market. He's now proven he can go and win (well, tie from behind) a game. He threw for 400 yards in regulation Thursday night...something Tom Brady has never done (Brady threw for 410 yards against Kansas City in '02, but didn't get to 400 until overtime).
* The Jets have proven they can win in Gillette Stadium (the only team to do it three times since it was built in '02). If there's a rematch in the playoffs, though, it'll happen at the Meadowlands, where the Pats have won eight straight.
* I'm not ready to declare a winner in the Allen Iverson-Chauncey Billups trade, but the fact the Celtics won at Detroit and lost at home to Denver does leave a clear early front-runner.
* Enough of the phony suspense. We all know the Yankees will money-whip Manny Ramirez well above his actual value just to stick a thumb in the eye of the Red Sox. Then again, maybe the Angels fork over big cash to stick one in the Dodgers' eye, particularly with Vlad Guerrero careening toward DH-hood.
* Kind of sad...a late-season weekend with only one matchup of Top 25 teams, and it ends up 56-6. Hey, Steve Spurrier used to be on the other end of those Florida trashings.
* The BCS title game picture looks much neater now...SEC champ vs. Big 12 South champ (with an 11-1 Big 12 South team poised to fill the slot if Missouri pulls the upset in the Big 12 title game.
* The lame-duck Congress should pass legislation enabling President-elect Obama to issue an executive order demanding an NCAA Division 1-A, FBS, whatever playoff in '09.
* Think those of us who opposed Prop 8 in California aren't pulling just a bit harder for Utah to stay unbeaten against BYU in the Mountain West showdown next week? And given Jeff Kent's contribution to the forces fighting societal progress, he's officially become a bigger twit than Barry Bonds.
* Finally, it's a joyous day at Agganis Manor, having welcomed a new sister-in-law to the clan today. My brother chose well, and there are plenty of omens that they will grow old together and prosper, including today's rain and the trip the three of us made to Fenway Park this year (yes, Jon Lester's no-hitter was a sign). Being part of a wedding party entering the reception hall to the Dropkick Murphys' "I'm Shipping Up to Boston": priceless.