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God bless everyone who attended the Patriots rally 01.30.17 at 1:47 pm ET
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According to announcer John Rooke, fans starting lining up as early as 3:30 a.m.

According to announcer John Rooke, fans starting lining up as early as 3:30 a.m. Monday. (WEEI.com photo)

They came by the thousands, donning Tom Brady jerseys and Patriots knit hats. Adults took the day off from work, and in some cases, pulled their kids out of school. Some of them even arrived before dawn.

It’s easy to make fun of the folks who attended the send-off rally at Patriot Place’s NRG Plaza Monday. While you were sitting through another interminable commute, they were standing out in the freezing cold, watching highlight videos on the jumbotron and cheering for Brady. On the fifth Monday in January, they decided to play hooky so they could do something they enjoy.

Crazy, right?

“Alright, now to all you fans, you are the greatest fans in the world,” owner Robert Kraft said when he addressed the massive crowd. “Twenty-three years ago, we bought the team and you lined up on Route One and you sold out every game we’ve ever played here. We think back, we were talking in the locker room back to the game we played Pittsburgh, that stadium has never been louder. We thank you for that. Since you fans have lined up with us, since 1994, we’ve played 23 home playoff games and you have been an asset in helping us win 20 of them. Thank you.”

Claire Catenucci-Cloutier is one of those fans who Kraft was thanking. She spends her spare time –– OK, almost all of her time –– managing a Facebook page called “Patriots Nation.” Each day, she posts pump up pictures and videos, reaching an audience of more than 4,000 members. After throwing a Patriots-themed wedding in 2006, it seemed like the next logical step to take her fandom.

“Let’s just say I’ll be real depressed next Tuesday,” she says. “They’ll be nothing to do.”

Mark Wilcon says he feels similarly. He’s part of a different Facebook group, Patriots Gang United, which boasts more than 22,000 members. As an apparent act of solidarity, he joins Catenucci-Cloutier’s group.

“They say that everybody hates us,” he says to her. “But look at all of the people here.”

Some who attended the rally engaged in more than hero worship. Mendel Levin, from Central Massachusetts Chabat, was blessing fans with impromptu “bar mitzvahs.” His community center promotes the concept of being a “Proud Jewish Patriot,” complete with shirts that feature “Pat Patriot” in a yarmulke. They were created in order to help students from Clark University Chabad stand out at a retreat in New York. But now, they serve as a rallying cry. Levin’s uncle, Rabbi Mendel Fogelman, says Kraft owns a shirt, and loves it.

“We’re proud to be Jewish,” Levin says. “We’re not afraid, we’re not embarrassed. We’re living it and are proud to be it.”

Levin (center-left) was blessing his fellow Patriots fans.

Mendel Levin (center-left) was blessing his fellow Patriots fans. (WEEI.com photo)

When people say sports teams are public trusts, the scene at Patriot Place Monday is probably what they have in mind. For several hours on a frigid Monday morning, thousands of people from all walks of life got together to worship the holy trinity: Belichick, Brady and Kraft.

Around these parts, few activities bring people closer together.

Read More: New England Patriots,
Bill Belichick vacations during free agency, makes hardline contract offers from the beach 01.27.17 at 10:40 am ET
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Belichick_9-1-16Bill Belichick is an even tougher negotiator than you imagined.

In a feature story, the MMQB’s Robert Klemko speaks with seven NFL agents who have worked with Belichick over the last 15 years. In most contract negotiations, there’s usually a give-and-take –– at least to some degree. But with Belichick, there doesn’t appear to be much of an opportunity for discourse. Agents say he’ll will often punctuate his pitch with one simple question: “Does your guy want to win a Super Bowl, or doesn’t he?”

It’s difficult to offer much of a rebuttal to that.

This past season served as another validation for Belichick’s callous approach to roster management. Last spring, the Patriots traded away their leader in sacks, Chandler Jones, to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper, who was cut in October (the second-round selection eventually turned into wideout Malcolm Mitchell and guard Joe Thuney). After the Giants handed defensive end Olivier Vernon $52.5 million guaranteed in free agency last year, it became clear that Jones would likely demand a similar deal when he hits the open market in 2017. Belichick, who only pays the market rate for a select number of players, shipped Jones away. Seven months later, Belichick also jettisoned linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland, where he just inked a four-year, $50 million deal with $26 million guaranteed. And yet, despite losing two of the most talented players on their defense, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. Without Jones and Collins, they allowed the fewest number of points in the league.

Those results illustrate why Belichick owns all of the leverage in negotiations. As long as Tom Brady is under center, he knows he’s going to win. That’s probably why he inserts himself into contract talks with players at the last minute, offering less money than his director of player personnel, Nick Caserio. According to some agents, Belichick usually vacations during free agency, making his hardline offers from tropical hideaways.

Belichick, exercising his abundance of leverage, will often go on vacation in the heat of free agency and make his take-it-or-leave-it offers from faraway beaches while other coaches are flying around the country on private jets to court players,” Klemko writes. “When prospective players visit Foxborough, they express to their agents a sense of fear, but often leave feeling as if they have just met the lone coach who understands their true purpose on a football field.”

In addition to all of the winning, Brady’s penchant for taking less money is another reason why the Patriots are often able to sign players to below market contracts. According to Spotrac, his salary cap hit this season was $13.7 million –– 27th highest in the NFL.

Almost every veteran player on the Patriots probably could’ve signed for more money elsewhere. But when they arrive in Houston next week for Super Bowl 51, their decisions will be validated.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,
Desperate for ratings, Fox Sports 1 hosts are saying crazy things about the Patriots 01.26.17 at 12:39 pm ET
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Fox Sports 1 may not be able to catch ESPN in the ratings, but it can usurp the WorldWide Leader in one category: awful hot takes about the Patriots.

Granted, that’s a difficult task. ESPN is responsible for turning Deflategate into a national scandal, thanks to Chris Mortensen’s false report about 11 of 12 Patriots footballs being deflated by two pounds of air. But Fox Sports 1 hosts who are desperate for ratings and relevancy are giving the folks in Bristol, Conn. a run for their money.

On Wednesday, sportswriter Rob Parker was a guest on Skip Bayless’ Undisputed alongside Eric Mangini and Shannon Sharpe. Previously, Parker’s most asinine statement about the Patriots came on the WEEI airwaves, when he said Tom Brady should’ve been suspended eight games for his alleged role in the Deflategate saga. But that takes a backseat to his latest anti-Brady screed, which included a shot at Bostonians for their apparent ignorance about the Tea Party:

“Up in there in Boston, let’s just be honest: it’s a cult. People up there are drinking the Kool-Aid,” he said. “You can’t get people in Boston to even admit that Native Americans had nothing to do with the Boston Tea Party. They don’t want to hear it. Same thing with Tom Brady. They will not acknowledge, accept no matter what goes down with what the Patriots have done, with what Tom Brady has done. I think that Tom Brady, and I’ve said this before, should be on par with like a Derek Jeter, who is a guy who was a great champion, won, had a great career, no blemishes. Tom Brady’s not in that boat anymore. And I do believe at some point, some disgruntled employee is going to write a tell-all book down the road and we’ll find out … what went on behind the scenes, what Tom Brady knew — Spygate, Deflategate, all of that. And Tom Brady will end up being Lance Armstrong without the bicycle.”

Outside of a bewildered “what?” from Bayless after the Tea Party comment, Parker’s rant was uninterrupted. So let’s examine these claims one-by-one:

Bostonians don’t acknowledge that Native Americans were involved in Tea Party: This is accurate, because Native Americans weren’t involved in the Boston Tea Party. Some demonstrators disguised themselves as Native Americans to hide their identities and send a message to the British. Parker should read a history book, or at least check out Wikipedia.

Tom Brady will end up being Lance Armstrong without the bicycle: In addition to being the ringleader of the most successful doping program in cycling history, Armstrong buried at least dozens of former associates and opponents in his selfish quest to preserve his own reputation. The science says Brady didn’t even play with unusually deflated footballs during the 2015 AFC championship game. Unless Parker knows about scandals that haven’t come to light yet, this is a reach of incredible proportions.

Despite receiving a suffocating amount of promotion during Fox’s NFL telecasts, First Take owns a 4:1 viewership edge over Undisputed. Recently, a rerun of of M*A*SH* from 1973 drew 232,000 more viewers in the same day and time-slot than Bayless’ shout fest.

While those numbers are depressing, Colin Cowherd would kill for an audience like that. Last week, he said Brady was playing for his job in the AFC championship against Pittsburgh.

“If Pittsburgh wins this game and Brady is average, you’re darn right [Robert] Kraft and [Bill] Belichick are having that, ‘Let’s have lunch and talk,’” he said.

If these tirades don’t move the needle, perhaps an FS1 personality will light him or herself on fire in Houston next week. We’re almost at that point.

Read More: Colin Cowherd, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Rob Parker
Atlanta-Journal Constitution published maybe the worst Deflategate article ever 01.25.17 at 1:50 pm ET
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Accuracy is the cardinal rule of journalism, except when it comes to writing about Deflategate. For some reason, when the topic turns to deflated footballs, it’s acceptable to parrot lies and spread misinformation. The disturbing trend continues to this day.

Wednesday, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution answered the question nobody is asking: What should we tell our kids about Deflategate? The ensuing column might be the worst collection of words ever written about the scandal, which is an incredible feat. It includes the greatest hits of Deflategate propaganda, beginning with the implication that the Patriots are the only team in the history of the NFL to have played with under-inflated footballs.

In the first subsection of the article, the author of the piece condenses the backstory of Deflategate to five paragraphs. There’s a lie in the third sentence. It’s highlighted for your convenience:

“New England coach Bill Belichick denied any knowledge of the deflated footballs. He explained that normal use and air conditions during the game may have caused the air leakage (despite it only affecting Patriots footballs).”

Some of the Colts’ footballs, of course, were also under-inflated. According to the halftime measurements, which were published in Ted Wells’ 243-page report, three of the four Colts’ balls were below the 12.5 PSI threshold on one of the two gages. It would be nice to know the air pressure of all the Colts’ footballs, but the Wells report says the testing was stopped due to time constraints.

It’s worth noting the average PSI of the Patriots’ balls is lower than the Colts’, but that’s not useful, because we don’t know what their air pressure level was when the game started. NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino says no readings exist.

Since the mistruth about only the Patriots playing with deflated footballs appears in the third sentence, it’s fair to say the author didn’t even peruse the Wells report. The column only gets worse from there:

For your kid: NFL footballs have to be a certain size. The Patriots won a game (and maybe more) with footballs that weren’t regulation size and that is not fair.”

That’s a nice summarization, except when the Steelers were caught playing with under-inflated footballs this season, the league didn’t pursue an investigation. If deflating footballs is unfair, then it’s laughable the Steelers didn’t even get scrutinized, never mind penalized.

Later on, when the author is recapping the NFL’s findings, he or she makes reference to Patriots fans and their “Deflategate conspiracy theories.” But the truth is, if you believe Tom Brady deflated footballs, you’re the conspiracy theorist. The scientific community says the balls naturally lost air pressure in cold weather. Their conclusions are supported by the Ideal Gas Law. People who argue against those facts point to text messages between low-level Patriots employees, John Jastremski and Jim McNally, in which McNally calls himself the “deflator.” Oh, and McNally went to the bathroom with the footballs for 90 seconds before the game, too. Don’t forget that.

Siding with anecdotal text messages and evidence of a bathroom trip over scientific consensus is insanity, but that’s the conventional wisdom. At the end of the piece, the author reaffirms the Patriots cheated, then hyperlinks to a two-year old article in the Federalist about how Deflategate could’ve been avoided if Brady had just apologized:

“The general conclusion is the team cheated and won, and they can’t escape the label. This is why two years later we’re still talking about Deflategate.

Another is the nearly 18-month legal wrangle could have been avoided:

If either man would have taken responsibility (the fact that they were in violation of league rules isn’t in dispute) or simply said “sorry” this episode would have been put to rest.”

That’s nice, but it discounts one little detail: Brady almost certainly didn’t do it. Why would anybody apologize if they’re in the right?

In recent months, there has been a moratorium on Deflategate-related articles. But with the Patriots returning to the Super Bowl, the trolls will be back in full force. Consider this AJC piece a preview of the madness to come.

Read More: Deflategate, New England Patriots,
Dan Le Batard cowers after implying Patriots prefer white wide receivers 01.24.17 at 1:51 pm ET
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Dan Le Batard came close to saying the Patriots have white wide receivers because they’re a racist organization and Boston is a racist city. But then he stopped just short.

On his ESPN radio show Monday, Le Batard talked about the stylistic differences between the Patriots and Falcons, who will face off in Super Bowl 51.

“Is anyone going to, at any point in 2017 America, point out the contrasting styles we have in this Super Bowl? Two very different cities, the wide receiver cores for both teams are very different,” he said. “When is that going to become a thing as we head towards Super Bowl week and we’re going to have to talk about everything and people are going to get tired of the chess match. Is anybody going to dare to wander into that topic? You’ve got Julio [Jones] and Muhammad [Sanu] and [Julian] Edelman. No? We’re going to avoid that?”

Le Batard, like other ESPN personalities who have defamed Boston in recent weeks, refuses to defend his words when challenged. On Tuesday, he implied his comments were said in jest.

Given ESPN’s history of disparaging Boston, it’s difficult to give Le Batard the benefit of the doubt. Earlier this month, when Celtics fans cheered soon-to-be free agent forward Gordon Hayward during pregame introductions, several talking heads at the WorldWide Leader brought race into the conversation. Jae Crowder, who took exception to fans applauding an opponent, is black. Hayward, of course, is white. For some, the low-hanging fruit was too much to ignore.

On Highly Questionable, Bomani Jones appeared to say Celtics fans like Hayward because of his skin color.

“Is there another arena in the whole country that would get this charged about Gordon Hayward maybe coming as a free agent? Clapping for Kevin Durant is one thing. But if you put Gordon Hayward on the same level as Kevin Durant, you might be the city that had the Kevin Love welcoming tour when he wasn’t even a free agent yet,” he said.

Writer Israel Gutierrez made a similar connection on Around the Horn.

“It’s Boston. They’re famous for having Larry Bird on their team. Gordon Hayward looks more like Larry Bird than other players in the league. So maybe there’s that Boston connection there,” he speculated.

Never mind that Celtics fans also showered then-pending free agent Kevin Durant with applause last season or that Crowder said he was upset his remarks were interpreted as race-related. Don’t let context or facts get in the way of a good rant, like when NBA analyst Amin Elhassan said in a recent podcast Boston is the most racist city in the country north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

“Somebody asked me, ‘How would you kind of tabulate or kind of quantify how racist a town is?’ I said, ‘Oh that’s easy. Record scratches per square foot.’ Because I’m telling you, it’s a funny thing from movies, but it’s happened to me for real in Boston. You walk in, the music stops, and everybody who’s all in their individual conversations stops and turns to me. I’m talking places not a stone’s throw from the arena.”

Presumably, Elhassan is referring to the T.D. Garden, the place where Celtics fans cheered for Hayward and within a stone’s throw of where they once cheered for Larry Bird. Apparently, it’s improper for fans to like multiple white players per half-century. They can only choose one. (Jones, Gutierrez and Elhassan all declined invitations to appear on WEEI, by the way.)

There’s no ignoring Boston’s repulsive history when it comes to its treatment of African-American athletes. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate and Bill Russell endured a disgusting amount of hardship. One night, vandals wrote racial slurs on his walls and smeared feces on his bed.

While these shameful episodes shouldn’t be forgotten, it’s reckless to use them as ammunition to support the lazy narrative about Boston being unwelcoming towards black athletes. David Ortiz might be the most beloved Red Sox player of all-time, with Pedro Martinez finishing a close second. Kevin Garnett, who originally didn’t want to play for the Celtics, now says Boston will always have a special place in his heart.

Few black athletes are more outspoken than Martellus Bennett, and he’s seemed to embrace Boston with open arms. This week, in fact, he made a t-shirt that says as much.

If Bennett spoke ill of Boston, race-baiting provocateurs like Le Betard and Jones would probably discuss his comments ad nauseum for the next two weeks. But since he didn’t, his shirt and accompanying tweet likely won’t be mentioned on their respective shows.

At ESPN, slandering Boston sports fans and teams seems to be part of the mission statement. And instead of defending his wild insinuation about the Patriots preferring white receivers, Le Batard decided to deflect. It’s par for the course.

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Patriots don’t have a Trump problem at 9:00 am ET
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Susan Pease of Lincoln may not have watched the Patriots defeat the Steelers in the AFC championship game, but it doesn’t appear as if many others joined her boycott. The contest received a household rating of 51.6, making it the second-highest non-Super Bowl performance in team history. Just imagine what the number would’ve been if it was a competitive game instead of a 19-point blowout.

Two weeks ago, SB Nation published a piece about how the Patriots have a Trump problem. The premise, which is supported by one on-the-record interview with Pease, is that the team’s affiliation with the divisive president is causing fans to tune out. But the ratings tell a much different story.

Throughout the season, the Patriots have consistently drawn massive numbers on television. Their affair against the Broncos Dec. 18 was the highest-rated broadcast of the regular season on CBS and the divisional round matchup against the Texans garnered a monstrous 42.2 rating in Boston.

Even more impressively, the market share for the AFC championship game was a whopping 73. That means 73 percent of TV watchers in Boston were tuned into the matchup.

Amazingly, this ratings triumph came on the heels of Trump’s inauguration, which was heavily Patriots-themed. Owner Robert Kraft was in attendance and even photographed at a swanky dinner with Kellyanne Conway, perhaps the President’s most visible surrogate. On Thursday, Trump gave Kraft a shoutout at an event, saying Tom Brady had called him recently.

On Kirk & Callahan Monday, Brady said he speaks with Trump from time-to-time. On the night before the election, at a stump speech in New Hampshire, Trump said Brady had voted for him and also read an endorsement letter from Bill Belichick. Though Belichick admitted to writing the letter, Brady hasn’t revealed who he supported.

The Patriots and Trump will forever be tied together, but the ratings show that the vast majority of fans in liberal Massachusetts are able to separate football from politics. When Super Bowl 51 begins in two weeks, Trump will probably be the furthest thing from most people’s minds –– at least for a couple of hours.

Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots,
Why Roger Goodell doesn’t care if Patriots win Super Bowl 01.23.17 at 4:36 pm ET
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Roger Goodell won't be able to dodge the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Roger Goodell won’t be able to dodge the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

It probably doesn’t make a difference to Roger Goodell whether the Patriots win the Super Bowl. For him, Deflategate is ancient history. He won a long time ago.

When owner Robert Kraft grabbed the microphone Sunday following his team’s blowout victory over the Steelers in the AFC championship game, he seemingly spoke for every aggrieved Patriots fan around the world.

“For a number of reasons, all of you in this stadium understand how big this win was,” Kraft told a rabid crowd in Foxboro.

It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots. Almost two years ago to the date, the NFL caught the Patriots playing with slightly under inflated footballs against the Colts. Over the next year-and-a-half, even when the science said there was no wrongdoing, Goodell smeared Tom Brady’s character and imposed draconian penalties on the team –– including suspending Brady for four games. Now, in two weeks, Goodell may be in the building when Brady is handed the Lombardi Trophy. Talk about sweet revenge.

Once a regular visitor to Gillette Stadium, Goodell has avoided it since Deflategate started. He’s been in Atlanta for the last two weeks closing down the Georgia Dome, one of the most unremarkable venues in professional football.

It’s unclear whose decision it is to keep Goodell in hiding. According to Comcast SportsNet’s Tom E. Curran, Goodell would’ve been at the AFC championship game Sunday if he had gotten his way. So perhaps somebody else in the league office, or the Krafts themselves, are making the call. But then again, it’s hard to believe that Goodell would allow other people to dictate his schedule. After all, this is guy who doesn’t permit his staffers to eat pizza until he gets the first slice.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Roger Goodell
Tom Brady is a fool to wonder why his friendship with Donald Trump is a big deal at 1:34 pm ET
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Tom Brady doesn't understand the Donald Trump questions. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady doesn’t understand the Donald Trump questions. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady doesn’t understand why people care about his friendship with Donald Trump. He must’ve been born yesterday.

In his weekly appearance on Kirk & Callahan Monday, Brady shed further detail on how often he communicates with the President. Last week, Trump said Brady called him before the inauguration.

“I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” Brady said. “But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

In the past, Brady has shied away from talking about Trump. But that wasn’t the case Monday. Just when the conversation was heading in a different direction, he brought up the subject again.

“Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it,” he said. “I don’t want to get into it, but if you know someone it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life. I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences.”

While Brady didn’t formally endorsed Trump –– he declined to tell K&C who he voted for –– he aligned himself with him throughout the entirety of the campaign. In September 2015, after a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in Brady’s locker, he said it “would be great” if Trump were in the Oval Office. At that point, Trump had already derided some Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and spent years propagating a racist birther conspiracy theory meant to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency. Brady later claimed to be unaware of the political issues at play, but ignorance isn’t an excuse.

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Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
LeBron James gives LeGarrette Blount a shoutout on Twitter at 8:37 am ET
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LeGarrette Blount took a page out of LeBron James’ book in the AFC championship game. After scoring a touchdown late in the third quarter, he brought out “The Silencer,” mimicking James’ signature road celebration. James, who was presumably tuned into the game like most sports fans, appreciated the gesture.

Though James is an unabashed Cowboys fan, it was difficult to not admire the Patriots’ dismantling of the Steelers Sunday night. Blount’s touchdown run, which came after he had dragged seven Pittsburgh defenders all the way to the goal line, served as the proverbial nail in the coffin. The burly running back finished with 16 carries and 47 yards.

Of course, when James mentions you on Twitter, it’s only appropriate to return the favor. Blount let him know the shoutout was appreciated.

Read More: LeBron James, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots,
Monday’s Morning Mashup: Athletes and celebrities react to the Patriots’ AFC championship win over Steelers at 8:25 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Monday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: New York at Indiana, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NFL: San Jose at Colorado, 9 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: N.C. State at Duke, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: TCU at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: American University at Holy Cross, 7:05 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Texas Southern at Miss. Valley State, 8:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Oklahoma at Texas, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Women’s college basketball: Mississippi State at South Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Women’s college basketball: Penn State at Indiana, 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network)

AROUND THE WEB:

— After the Patriots beat the Steelers Sunday night to seal their spot in the Super Bowl, other athletes and celebrities reacted to the win on social media.

 

 

   

Some Patriots themselves also posted about the win:

 

Tight ends baby! @jdevelin @martellusb Them boys worked hard for this!!! A photo posted by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Great Team Win #PatsNation

A photo posted by Logan Ryan (@realloganryan) on

 

THAT’S SOME HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE! #letsgooooooo

A photo posted by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

 

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Read More: New England Patriots,