Levine: It's Tebow Time once more

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Levine: It's Tebow Time once more

Not that our opinions actually mattered, but at the start of yesterdays overtime between the Steelers and Broncos, Patriots fans were faced with an interesting question:

Whom would they rather have the Pats play next?

Was it Pittsburgh, with its beaten down defense, no-name running game and quarterback who was now as immobile on the field as he was hide-your-daughters creepy off of it?

Or was it Denv Boom!

Before you could even finish the thought, Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas on an 80-yard score to knock out the Steelers and render the whole argument insignificant. Although, we all wanted Denver anyway, right? Right?!

Of course we did.

Heading into this weekend, the Steelers were the only potential opponent to strike fear in New England's hopes to avoid a fourth straight playoff loss. The Bengals were a joke. Tebow Time had long run out. The Steelers, and only the Steelers, were the team who had a chance to come in and ruin another Patriots' season.

But after watching what Denver did yesterday, are you still that convinced that the Curse of David Tyree I've got copyrights on that, Shaughnessy. Don't even think about it! is ready to run out?

On one hand, you only need to look back as far as Week 15 to realize how capable the Pats are of dominating Denver. Outside of a frustrating first quarter which is the only way these Pats know how to play the opening frame they treated the Broncos like dirt. And that was in Denver, at the height of Tebow Mania, before they lost offensive lineman Chris Kuper for the season and now, very likely, Eric Decker. The Pats destroyed the Broncos when they were at their very best, so it's hard to imagine or expect anything less when the two reconvene on Saturday night.

Then again, regular season success hasn't really helped the Patriots much in recent years. As you know, they've now lost three straight playoff games, and all three came against teams that they'd already beaten that same season. They beat the Giants 38-35 in Week 17 of 2007, and lost in the Super Bowl, 17-14. They beat the Ravens 27-21 in Week 4 of 2009, and lost 33-14 in the playoffs. And most recently (and probably the most comparable situation to this one), the Pats beat the Jets 45-3 in Week 13 last season. You remember that? Remember how that's all anyone could talk about heading into the playoffs? How that game was proof positive that the Jets had absolutely no shot of coming in here and walking away with a win?

The Patriots were 9.5-point favorites heading into that game, and finished up as seven-point losers. On Saturday, they'll take the field as 14-point favorites, and will likely face a very different Denver team than the one they saw in December. The defense has been taken down a peg, the offense has taken a few major injury-related hits. Who knows how Willis McGahee's confidence is after that huge potential-season-ending fumble? And of course, Tebow Time isn't what it once was.

While he may have led his team to another improbable victory, it wasn't anything like those head scratchers from Denver's mid-season run. There were no onside kicks, two point conversions, phantom fumbles or idiots out of bounds. Instead, it was just a solid quarterback playing a relatively sound (and consistent) game against a very good (albeit beaten down) defense. Perhaps that makes him more apt to take on the Patriots, but if anything, the superhuman mystique has certainly worn off. There will be no question in the Pats minds that they're up against a mere mortal. But given recent history, there's also no question that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. We've been here before. We've assumed too much and been burned in ways that haven't yet healed.

But still, while it might be dangerous to assume the Pats are in for a playoff cake walk against Denver, I'm sure as hell happy they're not playing Pittsburgh.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Rask missing from Bruins practice after Sunday exit

Rask missing from Bruins practice after Sunday exit

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- A day after exiting a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins with complications from migraines, Tuukka Rask was missing from a full Bruins team practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Tuesday night’s home date against the Detroit Red Wings.

Rask pulled himself out of the game midway through the second period with his team trailing after he’d stopped 20-of-22 shots, and was motioning toward his eyes as he exited for the Bruins dressing room. The Bruins goalie confirmed to reporters following the deflating loss that he indeed was suffering from ocular issues consistent with migraines, the same issue that knocked him out of a home loss to the Rangers a couple of years ago.

The Bruins brought in an emergency goalie to practice with the team on Monday along with backup netminder Zane McIntyre, who allowed three goals in the third period on the way to the Bruins imploding in Pittsburgh.

Both Colin Miller and Kevan Miller returned to practice on Monday morning, and the Bruins coaches shook up the forward lines after they were only able to cobble together one goal on 45 shots on Sunday afternoon. Torey Krug was also missing from practice along with Rask.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Monday morning’s practice that started roughly an hour late due to the team doing some video work together:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Krejci-Backes

Schaller-Nash-Beleskey

Spooner-Moore-Czarnik/Hayes

Chara-Carlo

Liles-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Morrow

McIntyre 
 

Brady makes 'The Hangover' reference, calls QB group his wolf pack

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Brady makes 'The Hangover' reference, calls QB group his wolf pack

Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are starting to make a habit of this.

After clinching the AFC East title during the regular season, they made sure to grab a picture together that they could throw on their respective social-media pages. They did the same again on Sunday night. 

Sporting their brand new AFC Championship hats -- and Brissett, who didn't dress for the game, in a championship t-shirt -- the trio posed in front of their lockers like the three best friends that anyone could have.

When Brady posted the shot on his Instagram page Monday morning, he captioned it with a speech from the movie "The Hangover," calling Garoppolo and Brissett part of his "wolf pack."