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NOTEBOOK

EXPECT A WAR: If the Pats' wins over the Titans and the Colts are any indication, then the Panthers better be ready for some scratching and clawing. This one, even through the normally stoic expressions of Pats coach Bill Belichick, could be one bruising affair.

"Football is a contact sport, and being able to control the line scrimmage and cause turnovers with contact, and jam receivers and that kind of thing, is very important in terms of controlling the tempo of the game," Belichick said. "Offensively, it's the same thing. They're trying to do that to you, and you've got to be able to hold your ground and battle back."

The Pats were particularly physical in the AFC Championship Game, and it prompted complaints from the Colts locker room. Backing off isn't something the Patriots are likely to do.

"It's always a significant part of the game," Belichick said, "being physical, initiating the contact, being aggressive and making sure that on the football field you are able to hold your ground and control your turf."

PARTY CRASHERS: Some of Las Vegas' biggest hotel-casinos are canceling Super Bowl parties and making refunds to thousands of guests after the NFL threatened legal action against those broadcasting the title game on big-screen TVs.

Several hotels received letters last week informing them their parties were "unauthorized use of NFL intellectual property."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league only recently became aware of large parties planned in Las Vegas and elsewhere around the country.

"These establishments were attempting to charge admission for something we are offering for free, and we believe that's a violation of a long-standing NFL policy that specifically prohibits mass out-of-home broadcasts," McCarthy said.

In determining whether an event violated the NFL's copyrights, the league considered the location's size, whether TV screens were larger than 55 inches and whether people had to pay to get in.

Some hotels have scrapped party plans entirely, while others are scrambling to accommodate the estimated 274,000 visitors expected to be in Las Vegas this weekend.

A Super Bowl party inside a movie theater at the Palms was scrapped after the hotel received a letter from the league Jan. 23. The gathering usually attracts several hundred people, who enjoy hot dogs and beer and compete in games and raffle drawings for $39.99.

_ ROGER MILLS, TIMES WIRES

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