NFL: Preseason-New York Giants at New England Patriots

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks with official Sarah Thomas during a recent game.

HEY, the Patriots will play a football game Sunday in Philadelphia.

Finally.

OK, it’s been less than two weeks since the dream of a perfect season went out the window by the loss in Baltimore. It just seems longer, doesn’t it?

With the AFC’s top seed still firmly in their grasp, the Pats enter Week 2 of the tough stretch of their schedule against a pretty good football team, on the road.

The Patriots are 3½-point favorites to go to 9-1.

In his weekly tribute to the coming opposition, coach Bill Belichick says, “Obviously, a great football team, great organization and they’ve done a tremendous job. They continue to do it. They’re really good in everything, all three phases of the game.”

As we said, the Eagles are pretty good. They come in 5-4. One of the five wins was at Green Bay. They have beaten the Bills and Bears and are coming off a bye.

They are also, of course, one of the teams that have kept the Patriots’ title number at six and not more. On Feb. 4, 2018, the Eagles defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Think Tom Brady has forgotten that?

Think again.

On his weekly WEEI appearance Monday, Brady said, “You assume I’m over it? Come on now. That’s a lot of mental scar tissue from that year. That was a tough game.”

And, like Belichick, Brady, also paying his weekly tribute to the opposition, sees this game as a tough one.

“Huge game for us. Big game for them,” he said. “The better team is going to win.”

The Pats have had a week off to stew over the loss to the Ravens, Brady saying, “Hopefully everyone got a chance to decompress a little bit mentally, physically and now we’ve got to get ready for a great week of preparation and then get ready to go in there and play our best game of the season on the road, in a really tough environment. It should be a great Sunday afternoon for football.”

Speaking of favorites, Bovada has New England’s Stephon Gilmore as the favorite to win NFL defensive player of the year honors.

The Patriots will, according to The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride, be present at a Colin Kaepernick league-produced workout Saturday.

Think of how cool it would be for the Patriots to sign Kaepernick, now 32, and see how creative they could get with his speed. It probably won’t happen, but … hey, it could.

Cora investigated

Colleagues Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic broke the story claiming the Astros used technology to cheat their way to the title.

A.J. Hinch was the manager, Alex Cora was his bench coach and Carlos Beltran was allegedly at the forefront of the whole thing. All three are current major league managers and all three are now under the microscope for what happened in ’17.

The piece said Cora played a “key role” in the whole thing.

One thing is clear: This isn’t about just the Astros. Baseball has to clean this up. It doesn’t need any more negatives hurting a game that has lost popularity, with the main complaint of fans concerning the length of the games. Paranoia over sign stealing leads to more mound meetings, more delays on a game that already drags.

This has been a tough offseason for Houston, the World Series runner-up. First there was the club backing an assistant GM over an incident with a female reporter. Now this.

Punishment? The buck stops with ownership so I’m kinda thinking fines, perhaps loss of draft choices. As far as the individuals, column pal Bill Murphy points out MLB is facing the possibility of three managers getting suspended.

Said new Red Sox baseball chief Chaim Bloom: “Given that Major League Baseball obviously oversees that, we’re going to just let them do what they need to do and handle it as they see fit. It’s not really our place to comment on it.”

MLB held its general managers meetings this week in Arizona and the only real news from a local angle really had nothing to do with the meetings. It was about health. Chris Sale said through his agent that he’s feeling much better and Dustin Pedroia hopes to complete what truly would be a remarkable comeback to get back on the field.

There were also indications that the Red Sox were looking to move Sale, David Price or Nathan Eovaldi in an attempt to pare some money, but there was nothing solid.

TD Garden news

Boston’s winter sports teams were heading in different directions by the middle of the week. The Celtics were flying and the Bruins were … well, struggling.

First, the Bruins.

Last year, Bruce Cassidy’s team never lost four games in a row. The Bruins had lost three straight and were about to end that streak with a loud win over Florida. Up 4-0 after two periods, the B’s made history by losing for the first time ever when leading by four in a third period.

And right in the middle of it all was Tuukka Rask playing his third straight shaky game. To his credit, he threw himself under the bus after Tuesday night’s game.

“You give the other team some life, and then it snowballs,” said Rask. “At that point, you can’t regain your speed and confidence. Momentum just takes it the other way and you can’t recover.”

The Bruins are at Toronto Friday night and then host sizzling Washington Saturday night.

The Celtics played Wednesday without Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. They didn’t play much defense, but they did scored 140 points and improved to 9-1 with their ninth straight win.

We love Walter

Tommy Heinsohn loved Walter McCarty when the big fella played for the Celtics. McCarty went into coaching and is in his second season as the head coach at Evansville.

Well, Tuesday night, McCarty, a former Kentucky standout, and his Purple Aces upset No. 1 Kentucky.

The Wildcats had won 52 straight home games against unranked opponents (and were 39-0 against unranked teams when ranked No. 1) and the Aces were picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference. They went 11-21 last year.

Included in the congratulatory calls was one from Rick Pitino, McCarty’s coach on Kentucky’s 1996 NCAA title team. Charles Barkley called McCarty, who put Barkley on speakerphone on the team bus.

The Aces were 25-point underdogs.

“Walter and their team deserved to win,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “If we would have somehow pulled it out, it would have been, kind of wouldn’t even have been fair because they fought us the whole game and they were the tougher team.”

“We love Wal-ter!”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.