Fielding questions

ROB LONGLEY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

Bill Belichick may not be "pulling weeds" this week, but the New England Patriots coach may well have pulled a fast one. The covered field caper in Foxboro was a source of comedy and consternation in advance of tomorrow's AFC divisional playoff between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.

Though a slow field may well hinder quarterback Peyton Manning, it may have a bigger effect on the Colts defence.

Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who had a huge game against Denver last week, is one of the quickest off the line in the league. Take that away on an off-field and suddenly running back Corey Dillon and the Patriots offence may dictate the pace of the game.

Though the league made the Patriots cover up the field later in the week, it's likely the damage is already done.

Call it gamesmanship, but the bottom line is it's home-field advantage, something the Patriots essentially earned with their three-point win on the opening night of the season.

"It's what you play for," Patriots tackle Matt Light said. "That's the advantage. Being in your own stadium, being able to hear the calls offensively and not getting a late start off the line. That's why you want to play at your place in these types of games."

Say this about Belichick who made his "pulling the weeds" comment in reference to the fact he doesn't make groundskeeping decisions (yeah, right), he's a coach only a mudder could love.

RAMS ON A RUN

Other than the Steelers, who have won 14 in a row, the hottest team entering the divisional round is an unlikely one.

The St. Louis Rams, who have won three in a row, may be the most intriguing team on what is annually acknowledged as the most intriguing weekend of the playoffs.

Quarterback Marc Bulger has been playing the best in his career bringing back memories of five years ago for Rams fans.

"He has a memory bank for everything that happens," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "He never makes the same mistake twice."

Bulger has been money in his two career playoff starts. He threw for 313 yards in the Rams' wild-card victory last week in Seattle and for 332 in last year's divisional round loss to the Carolina Panthers.

And as an aside to the Falcons, Colts and Vikings, the Rams remain the only dome-based team to win a Super Bowl. In their 1999 championship run, the Rams played all three playoff games indoors including winning the Bowl in the same stadium they meet the Falcons tonight.

TIME TO SHRINE

Former McMaster star Jesse Lumsden is getting all the Canadian hype for today's East-West Shrine game in part because he deserves it and in part because of the position he plays.

But Lumsden is not the lone Canadian getting an opportunity to play in the all-star showcase and not the one NFL scouts will be eying the closest.

That spotlight goes to offensive lineman Nick Kaczur of Brantford. At one point projected as a second-round pick next spring, Kaczur was a standout for Toledo the past four years. Though he plays in the MAC, that conference has been given more attention in recent years thanks to the exploits of players such as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

SHARPEN UP

Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt has more to worry about than the silly reaction to his comments this week suggesting the Patriots are ripe for the picking.

The Oakville native admits that with the Colts offence as efficient as it has been, he hasn't had enough work.

In last week's AFC wild-card win over Denver, for example, he had seven extra points and not a field-goal try.

"You don't stay sharp, you just have to deal with it," Vanderjagt said. "As a placekicker you just do what you can. You don't decide when you go out there."

The low point of Vandy's season came at Foxboro in the season opener when he missed a 47-yarder that would have forced overtime and also snapped his record streak for consecutive field goals.


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