Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Steelers

Patriots Week 15 Report Card, Mistakes Galore In Another Ugly Loss

Steve Balestrieri
December 18, 2018 at 6:35 am ET

The Patriots road woes continued once again and the team finished the regular season on the road at a dreadful 3-5, losing their last two in particularly ugly fashion. This week’s loss against the Steelers was a continuation of that. Terrible mental mistakes, unforced errors, drops, penalties. Poor offensive line play when it counted and absolutely awful run defense.

We’ve been waiting for this team to get its act together and show who they are. It is becoming increasingly (and frustratingly) clear that this IS who they are in 2018. An inconsistent, and undisciplined group on the road. At home, this team can beat anyone. On the road, they can lose to anyone.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s close win.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady, in the grand scheme of things actually didn’t play very badly. He finished 25-36 for 279 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Drive killing drops by Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon on third down. Another by James White was behind him where it wasn’t a great throw by Brady but it is one White has made in the past. The interception was a pass he was trying to throw away but the pressure on him caused him to float it.

Penalties were absolute killers. On a first and goal from the 5-yard line, Sony Michel ran to the 2, but a holding call pushed them back to the 15-yard line. On a 2nd and 5 from the Pittsburgh 11-yard line on their final drive, another holding penalty on Shaq Mason pushed them back to the 21. Two passes in the end zone Gronkowski and one to Edelman sealed it.

Brady wasn’t getting his usual support on Sunday that much is for sure. But to score 10 points on a Pittsburgh defense that he’s routinely shredded for 18 years? That isn’t going to get it done.

Running Backs: C+

The Patriots running backs were ineffective running in the first half, they got it going for a short while early in the second half but being down caused them to ditch the running game and concentrate on the pass. Sony Michel (13 rushes, 59 yards, 4.5 avg), Rex Burkhead (4 rushes 25 yards, 6.3 avg.) and James White (2 carries, 12 yards) totaled up 96 yards on 19 carries, a 5.1-yard average, wasn’t bad. But they couldn’t sustain anything and of course, the holding and false start penalties were killers.

White wasn’t used much in the passing game with five catches for just 25 yards and it seemed like they went away from him late in the game. Burkhead had three catches for 18 yards and James Develin had two for 18.

Wide Receivers: D

Not a great day for the wide receivers, on the surface it appeared Julian Edelman had a really big day with seven catches for 90 yards but he had a key drop and then picked up two costly penalties. And he was at the head of the class. Chris Hogan had the huge 63-yard TD on their first possession. But then he had just one more catch for five yards the rest of the game.

Cordarrelle Patterson had three catches for 20 yards but it was the one yard that was taken away that hurt. On a third down, Patterson was stopped about four yards short of the sticks but on the second effort bulled his way to pick it up. But the play was reviewed and they moved his forward progress back to a 4th and 1 and the Patriots punted.

Josh Gordon had his worst game as a Patriot on Sunday. He had just one catch for 19 yards and he too had a very costly drop on 3rd down that was right in his hands and that killed a drive. It was the first time he’s struggled since signing with New England and came at a bad time. He was targeted just those two times and wasn’t even on the field for the final series inside the Steelers’ red zone.

Tight Ends: D-

Rob Gronkowski went from one of his better games of the season to invisible again in the passing game. The Steelers couldn’t cover Jared Cook a week ago and then Gronkowski could manage only one catch in each half. He ended up with 2 for 21 yards….nuff said.

Offensive Line: D-

The offensive line did reasonably well in spurts in the running game and they averaged 5.1 yards per rush. But they couldn’t sustain anything and in the passing game at crunch time, they folded under Pittsburgh’s pressure.

The offensive line was called for six penalties. Two of the holding calls wiped out red zone scoring opportunities. Another holding call wiped out a 25-yard run by Michel, which has happened far too often this year. Michel should have about 1100 yards rushing.

Like the defensive line, the Patriots OL gets pushed around on the road and yesterday it really cost them.

Defensive Line: F

The defensive line got decent but not great pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and notched 5 QB hits with Trey Flowers and Lawrence Guy each with two apiece…that is the good news. The bad news is that they were totally gashed by the run again.

Jaylen Samuels had just 59 yards rushing for the year before Sunday’s game. He ripped the Patriots for 142 on Sunday afternoon on just 19 carries (7.5-yard average), part of the Steelers’ 158 yards on the ground. The defensive line was manhandled at the point of attack and it has been a common occurrence in every Patriots loss this season that the DL has been dominated in the trenches.

We gave them the benefit of the doubt against the Vikings as they went to very light packages to get after the QB and stop them from passing. But Miami and Pittsburgh were two of the worst running teams in the NFL and they have combined for 347 yards rushing the past two weeks. That is a recipe for losing.  

Linebackers: C

The Patriots linebackers can share in the gaffes in run support with the defensive line. They too in run support frequently got washed out. On one play Dont’a Hightower flew up into the line and filled the wrong gap and Samuels shot into the unoccupied space for a big gain.

Kyle Van Noy got a sack when he perfectly anticipated the snap and blew thru the Steelers OL and got Roethlisberger in a bear hug and wouldn’t let go. But the linebackers actually did a really good job in coverage. We were worried about Samuels more in the passing game coming into this one and he wasn’t a big factor in the passing game. In some good news, the linebackers did a good job of securing the middle of the field.

Secondary: A-

The secondary had a rough start to the game. The Steelers began the game by spreading the Patriots defense out and they had great success with it and went down the field with ease on their first drive. On that TD pass, one of two by Roethlisberger, Vance McDonald beat Pat Chung easily for a 5-yard score. Antonio Brown later beat Jason McCourty badly for a 17-yard score. But the secondary did their job and well.

Despite gashing the Patriots in the running game, the Steelers insisted on trying to throw it down the field and Roethlisberger had only 235 yards on the day. He had two TDs and two INTs, both by Duron Harmon. Jonathan Jones was the victim of what we thought was a horrible 26-yard pass interference penalty.

Stephon Gilmore and rookie J.C. Jackson were both outstanding on the perimeter. They held Antonio Brown (4 catches, 49 yards on 7 targets) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (4 catches, 40 yards on 10 targets) in check. Harmon had the two interceptions and the Patriots defense at the end of the day held Pittsburgh to just 17 points.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had the Pats best play of the day. Ryan Allen punted for the far left corner of the end zone. The ball bounced and appeared to be rolling toward the Steelers’ end zone. Jonathan Jones dove and popped the ball straight up. The Rex Burkhead dove into the end zone and knocked the ball out of the air to be downed at the Steelers’ one-yard line. It was a fantastic effort all around.

Allen was excellent all game with his directional punting but got flagged on a false start… as a holder for a field goal. I can honestly say that I’ve been following the NFL for over 50 years and have never seen that one before.

Stephen Gostkowski nailed his only field goal attempt after having a rough afternoon in Miami last week.

Coaches: D

The Patriots coaching staff has a dilemma, which I don’t think is fixable…this year. How can this team play so well at home and be so undisciplined and terrible on the road? It is an issue that may eventually cost them in January. They certainly are capable enough of playing well against good teams.

Once again, the play calling and some of the personnel packages are mystifying. The Steelers were flooding the middle of the field and trying to take away where the Patriots like to work. So on a 3rd and 4, why call a bubble screen to Edelman with only Chris Hogan out there to block for him. The Steelers had too many bodies there and that one had little chance of success.

And on the final series, Josh Gordon wasn’t even on the field as they went with Patterson, who isn’t the route runner Gordon is…head scratcher.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Steelers Down Patriots 17-10, Knock Them Out of a Bye

Steve Balestrieri
December 16, 2018 at 9:14 pm ET

Steelers Down Patriots 17-10, Knock Them Out of a Bye

Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. They keep piling up on the 2018 Patriots on the road and it cost them dearly again on Sunday down in Pittsburgh.

Dropped passes, missed opportunities and generally, poor play has the team now on the outside looking in for one of the two teams earning a bye in the AFC. The Patriots, like a week ago in Miami, earned that loss this afternoon in Pittsburgh. They were outplayed, and once again were owned at the line of scrimmage in the Steelers 17-10 win.

Their second loss in a row drops the team to 9-5 and the #3 seed, forcing them to now have to beat the Bills next week at home to win the division. After that, they close out against the Jets and they have to hope that they win out at home while hoping for the Texans to stumble against either the Eagles or the Jaguars in the final two weeks. Other than that, they will be playing on Wild Card Weekend.

The Steelers went to an empty formation early in the game so that the Patriots couldn’t effectively double their wide receivers. It was a great tactic and they easily sliced and diced the defense by mixing in well-designed runs and scored easily on the opening possession.

The Patriots answered when the Steelers totally blew a coverage and left Chris Hogan all alone on a cross from left to right. Brady hit Hogan in stride and he cruised 63-yards without a Steeler in sight. It looked like it was going to be another shootout.

But only one more touchdown would be scored, a Roethlisberger 17-yard pass to Antonio Brown one play after a horrible pass interference penalty on the Patriots for 26 yards set the Steelers up inside the red zone. Pittsburgh went 92 yards in eight plays to take a 14-7 lead. The teams would just trade field goals for the rest of the game.

The game against the Steelers can be summed by the A. Penalties, B. Red Zone and C. Run Defense. And all three of those areas, the Patriots rate A’s this week. Eh…you say. Yes, A’s as in Appalling, Awful and Atrocious.

Penalties: A as in Appalling

The Patriots had 14 penalties on Sunday….That is totally unacceptable on any level. Sony Michel had a 25-yard run wiped out by a holding call at the line of scrimmage after he was clearly past the line and into the second level. That just isn’t smart football.

Another holding call pushed them from the 2-yard line on a Michel run on first and goal at the 5-yard line to the 15. Two plays later Brady was picked off by Joe Haden when trying to throw the ball out of bounds.

On the final drive, facing a 2nd and 5 at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line, yet another holding call pushes them back to the 21. On third down, Brady throws it out the back of the end zone and misses James White standing all alone in the flat. He had an easy 8-10 and would have made the 4th down pass much more manageable.

Red Zone:  A as in Awful

When you go 0-3 in the red zone and a combined 3-11 on third and fourth down attempts, you’re not going to win many football games. The Steelers were getting good pressure on Brady and were intent on taking away the middle of the field….which they did. Which begs to the question, why didn’t Josh McDaniels adjust?

Josh Gordon was MIA in this one, he wasn’t even on the field for the final series inside the Pittsburgh red zone. After his big TD catch, Chris Hogan was rendered invisible as well. Very curious play calling in this one.

Run Defense: A as in Atrocious

Jaylen Samuels sliced and diced the front seven to the tune of 142 yards and a 7.2-yard average. Pittsburgh has been awful at running the football, just like Miami was before last week. And once again the offensive line of the Steelers totally dominated the point of attack all game.

The Patriots front seven doesn’t travel well because in every loss this season, they’ve been blown off the ball. This doesn’t bode well for a team on the outside looking in for a bye in the playoffs.

The Patriots limp home after an abbreviated by disastrous 0-2 road trip. Instead of fighting for the #1 seed and locking up the division, now they are no closer to the division and any chance of the #1 seed are gone.

The run defense is scary to watch…and not in a good way. And the offense is still searching for an identity after 14 games.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

New England Patriots News 12-16, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-16, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

Just a reminder that you revisit our keys to the game here:
And our players to watch from a Patriots perspective by clicking on the links:

Did you Know? With a win today and a Miami loss or tie, the Patriots would clinch the AFC East for the 10th year in a row, breaking a tie with the Cowboys and Colts for the most consecutive years making the playoffs. It will also be the 16th divisional title since 2001.

Did you Know Pt.2? The Patriots and Steelers are meeting for the 32nd time with New England holding a slim 16-15 edge in wins over but a pretty decisive 4-1 edge in the postseason. The Patriots have won the last five matchups (including the playoffs)

Did you Know Pt. 3: The Patriots and Steelers are #1-2 in several categories since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994.

TOTAL VICTORIES (INCLUDING POSTSEASON)
New England Patriots ………307
Pittsburgh Steelers…………..272
Green Bay Packers………….268
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIPS
New England Patriots ………….5
Denver Broncos…………………..3
Baltimore Ravens………………..2
Pittsburgh Steelers………………2
Green Bay Packers……………..2
N.Y. Giants …………………………2
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
New England Patriots………….9
Pittsburgh Steelers …………….4
Denver Broncos …………………4
PLAYOFF VICTORIES
New England Patriots………..28
Pittsburgh Steelers …………..20
Green Bay Packers ………….20
DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIPS
New England Patriots………17
Pittsburgh Steelers ……………13
Green Bay Packers …………..12

Gronk-Brady Connection: With one touchdown reception from Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Brady will tie Dan Marino and Mark Clayton for fourth-most touchdown connections in NFL history with 79. The third most goes to Steve Young -Rice connection with 85 TDs. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison remain up top with 112, while the duo of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates (still active) remain in second with 89

Ridley Wants Revenge Now? Not Buying It :

Every so often a player will make some noise about wanting some kind of revenge against another team and it makes sense. And there’s Stevan Ridley. According to Ridley, he’s had this game “circled for a long time.”

Ridley in the latest example of a player screaming “look at me” told the Herald this week that he was trashed by the Patriots after tearing his ACL in 2014. “I’m just going to put it that way. I’m not going to say specifically, but to be a starter for [the Patriots] for four years, to tear my ACL and never get a callback, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

To be clear in his four years with New England, Ridley started 25 games between 2011-2014 and his 2012 season was his best by far when he rushed for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns. Since then his career has gone steadily downhill with his final year (2014) with him not being nearly as effective before his injury.

“I don’t really need to harp on [the past]. I don’t want to make this interview too much about me,” Ridley said, making it very much about himself.

“Now they’re still looking for a running back to come in and play,” he added. “How many running backs have been through there to try to give them some consistency as a quote-unquote first- or second-down back? They’re still looking for it right now. Yeah, it’s very personal. It is.”

Apparently, it wasn’t as personal in 2015, when Ridley fresh off his release from New England played for the Jets against the Patriots in Week 15 in the Meadowlands? Since leaving New England, Ridley has been part of six teams, the Jets, Lions, Falcons, Colts, Broncos, Vikings, and the Steelers. There is plenty of room for a lot of grudges in that case.

Either NE or Steelers Playoff Seeding Can Take a Blow Today:

The Patriots and Steelers are always two of the teams that predicted to be among the top seeds of the AFC. This year was no exception but after bad losses in very winnable game situations last week, the team that loses this week could be looking at a fall outside of the teams trying to get a bye week. With the Chiefs on top of the heap with an 11-3 mark, the Patriots lost a key opportunity to leapfrog them at the #1 spot, courtesy of the final play meltdown in Miami. With the Houston Texans also sitting at 9-4, another loss could drop them down to the #3 seed and set up another playoff match on Wildcard Weekend with Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have dropped three in a row and now sit just a half-game ahead of the Ravens who lost in O.T. to the Chiefs last week. With a Patriots victory and Ravens win over Tampa Bay, the Steelers would lose the division lead and drop them down to the #6 seed which would be a road game throughout the playoffs.

Flores Takes the Blame for the Ending in Miami, Ready to Move On:

The Patriots were stunned by the weird finish in Miami last week but Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores wasn’t going to allow any finger pointing on the team, taking the blame for that final play on himself.

“Flo made no bones about it, he felt like it was on him, but at the end of the day, none of us really care. We weren’t like, ‘Man, that was on you.’ It was more like, ‘That’s on all of us. Let’s move forward,'” safety Devin McCourty said to ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

“That’s on us as a coaching staff. It happened, we wish it hadn’t, we’ve watched it, we’ve corrected it as a staff, we’ve corrected it with the team, and we’ve got to move on to Pittsburgh,” Flores said to the media. “So if that situation shows up again, I think we’ll handle it better.”

“He’s on us a lot,” McCourty added. He feels like we need to be an all-about-business defense, and if he feels like it’s slacking, he’ll get on us. If he feels like we’re having too much fun, he’ll get on us. I’ve enjoyed it. Leadership is something he’s meant to do. It’s in him, even outside of just X’s and O’s and football.”

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 14 Predictions:

Last week: 7-9 Season 132-74-2

Thursday night’s pick Chargers over Chiefs 1-0
Saturday picks: Texans over the Jets, Broncos over the Browns

Green Bay at Chicago: Bears
Detroit at Buffalo: Bills
Tampa Bay at Baltimore: Ravens
Arizona at Atlanta: Falcons
Oakland at Cincinnati: Raiders
Tennessee at NY Giants: Titans
Miami at Minnesota: Vikings
Washington at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Dallas at Indianapolis: Cowboys
Seattle at San Francisco: Seahawks
New England at Pittsburgh: Patriots
Philadelphia at LA Rams SNF: Rams
New Orleans at Carolina MNF: Saints

Next Saturday: Titans over the Redskins, Chargers over the Ravens

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Getting Healthier Before Taking on the Lions:

The Buffalo Bills had a bit of good news for a change this week, Derek Anderson sidelined since the Monday Night game against New England in the concussion protocol, six weeks ago, has been finally cleared to play. Also in the good news category was that RB LeSean McCoy seems poised to play after tweaking a hamstring last week in the first series of the game against the Jets. Also injured against the Jets but expected to play was kicker Stephen Hauschka.

McCoy who is mired in a very tough season has played in 12 games and has a career-worst 3.3-yards per rush average. Age and a very heavy workload may have finally caught up to the running back who is 30 and will turn 31 before the 2019 season begins. But with Chris Ivory banged up with a shoulder injury, the Bills need him to play.

Part of the issue may be the play of the offensive line but it certainly seems like McCoy has lost a step. The Bills have a tough decision to make in the spring.

Dolphins Need to End Road Woes Today in Minnesota:

The Miami Dolphins are still in the mix after last week’s improbable win over New England. This week they take on the reeling Minnesota Vikings who dropped their second game in a row to the Seattle Seahawks to move their record to 6-6-1. Minnesota’s playoff hopes are on life support after their two latest losses. Miami at 7-6 has to deal with their road record which sits at 1-5. The Dolphins are 1-10 in their last 11 games away from home. The only road win this season was Week 2 at the Jets.

The Dolphins will have to follow the latest trend in bringing pressure on QB Kirk Cousins who’s been under siege lately. In the first seven games of the season, Cousins had 308.9 passing YPG; 7.2 yards per attempt; a 14-3 TD-INT ratio, and a 101.8 passer rating. Contrast that to the last six games where he’s managed just 256 passing YPG; 6.9 yards per attempt; a 10-6 TD-INT ratio, and a 93.9 passer rating.

Cousins has been bailing backward behind an offensive line playing poorly. Miami meanwhile has not been great at generating pressure but will need big games from their edge rushers Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake to pull off a win today.

Another key to watch is Ryan Tannehill on 3rd down against one of the best 3rd down defenses in the NFL. Tannehill has struggled on 3rd down this year. And while Tannehill is getting raves about his “incredible” game against the Patriots it should also be noted he had less than 200 yards passing before his “miracle” throw last week. I’m taking the Vikings at home in this one.

Jets Place Crowell on IR Prior to Game with the Texans:

The New York Jets are playing the Houston Texans today (Saturday) and will be without leading rusher Isiah Crowell who aggravated an existing toe injury and was placed on IR. Crowell had 685 yards rushing.

He missed last week’s game, the first of his career, he’d played in 77 straight games and Coach Todd Bowles said that the pain his running back was in was “excruciating”.

According to ESPN, Crowell is no lock to return in 2019. He signed a three-year, $12 million contract in free agency, but he can be released with minimal salary-cap implications. The Jets can save $3 million by cutting him, taking a $2 million cap hit for 2019.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots-Steelers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 14, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots-Steelers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

The Patriots go back on the road for their final regular season road game of 2018 with a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. This is, in essence, a playoff game for both teams. Each needs to win to try to lock down the #2 seed.

For Pittsburgh, it is even more important as they’ve dropped three in a row and their lead in the division has dwindled to just a half-game over the suddenly surging Ravens. By the time that the game starts, they should know the results of the Ravens-Bucs game. However, Baltimore ends the season with games at the Chargers and home against the Browns who are playing much better. Pittsburgh has New England this week, New Orleans next week and then the Bengals.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 16 at 4:25 p.m. ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (9-4) are coming off an awful loss in Miami, just like a year ago on the last play of the game.  The run defense was terrible as was the run blocking for the offense. But Tom Brady had a big day throwing the ball, tossing for 358 yards and three TDs.

The Steelers (7-5-1) had another late 4th quarter comeback and pulled off a dramatic 39-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens where Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards and Antonio Brown had 213 yards receiving.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Steelers are meeting for the 32nd time and the Patriots with a slight 16-15 edge. However, during the Bill Belichick era the Patriots are 11-3 against the Steelers and have won the last five meetings including last years meeting in Pittsburgh.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Steelers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Slightly to New England

The Patriots running game has been very good this season until they hit a snag against one of the worst run defenses in the league in Miami last week. Sony Michel has been the workhorse for the Patriots in the running game with James White and Rex Burkhead in support roles.

The Steelers have the #6 run defense (96.9 yards a game) in the league and still use the same 3-4 defense that they’ve been running seemingly forever. It starts up front with the big men, Jason Hargrave at the nose tackle and Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward at the ends. The linebackers are quick and aggressive and will shoot the gaps.

Look for Josh McDaniels to throw in order to run this week. Look for the Patriots to try to take advantage of the Steelers aggressiveness at getting after the passer and try to get Michel going in that way. Some quick hitters with White and Burkhead could be on the agenda this week. The same with some Jet sweeps with Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Patriots WRs vs Steelers Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is ranked 15th in the league but much of that has to do with the slow start that they got off to in the first month of the season. Since Josh Gordon has arrived, Brady’s numbers are about the same as they were in 2017 when he was the league’s MVP. The good news is they are getting healthy, Rob Gronkowski had his best game of the season last week. Gordon is heating up and has traditionally played well against Pittsburgh. Rob Gronkowski and Brady have always played well against the Steelers. Brady also Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Patterson and White and Burkhead out of the backfield.

Pittsburgh is ranked 12th in pass defense allowing just 233.9 yards per game. They get after the QB very well with T.J. Watt leading the way with 10 sacks, Jason Hargrave has 6.5 from the nose which will be very telling in this game. The key to stopping Brady is pressure up the middle, if he can step up in the pocket, he will be very successful. Heyward has 6 sacks and Bud Dupree has 5.5.

It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh decides to defend Gronkowski. Last year they played him almost exclusively with Sean Davis and he torched them in the second half. They’ll have to decide on whether to go with Joe Haden on Gordon or Coty Sensabaugh. Edelman will also be a tough matchup for them. In the past, the Steelers have played the same defense they always have against Brady. Will they mix things up this week? Or will they continue to just run their defense and try to out-execute the Patriots? Under Mike Tomlin, that is their M.O. they preach execution but they aren’t a big adjustment defense.

Next up the Pittsburgh offense:

Steelers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

The Steelers running game is mired in 29th place in the NFL averaging just 89 yards per game. They haven’t shown the patience with it, even with James Conner in the lineup to stick with it. With Conner banged up and questionable to play, it will be interesting to watch if they do this week.

The Patriots rush defense is in the middle of the pack 15th in the league. But last week, against another team that struggles to run in Miami they were gashed for 189 yards on 21 carries. The defensive line was pushed around at the point of attack and the linebackers in run support were awful.

The Pittsburgh OL is one of the better lines in the league, and if they stay patient with the running game, even without Connor, they could dictate the pace and keep New England’s offense on the bench. From an NE perspective, the DL and LBs will have to play much better than a week ago.

Steelers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger has a dynamic duo in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown on the outside for as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the NFL. Smith-Schuster has 91 catches for 1237 yards and 6 TDs. Brown has 86 for 1063 yards and 12 TDs. Ryan Switzer is the third option outside. Vance McDonald is having a career year with 44 catches at tight end while Jesse James is still out there as well. Jaylen Samuels will be a player to watch this week. We really liked him coming out of the draft this spring and he’s an intriguing player to watch.

The Patriots pass defense has been going thru ebbs and flows. Two weeks ago they had arguably their best game shutting down Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs from the Vikings. But last week Kenny Stills gave them fits in Miami. They will no doubt try to roll their double teams from Smith-Schuster to Brown and disguise them. They have been good at getting pressure on opposing QBs but bad at getting home with sacks.

Look for Roethlisberger to work the middle of the field this week with McDonald and James to set up his top 2 WRs. They’ll try to isolate their TEs on the NE LBs which will be a mismatch.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The kickers in this one, the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski and the Steelers Chris Boswell both had a rough week. But Boswell has been struggling most of the season. The team brought in former kicker Shaun Suisham to work with him. Boswell is just 3-8 from 40-49 yards this year. Despite missing an extra point and a field goal last week, the Patriots have a big edge here in the kicking game with Gostkowski.

Ryan Switzer has done a good job with the return game for the Steelers but with Patterson and Edelman, I’m going to give the edge to the Patriots here as well.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be another Patriots-Steelers classic. Both teams really need this game, last year at this time it was about the #1 seed, this season it is about #2. The Texans are right on their heels in the conference and the Steelers can’t afford to lose their fourth in a row. Even for a team that never puts coaches on a hot seat, if Tomlin were to lose four in a row after a 7-2-1 start, he will start to feel the heat.

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Put the Ball in Brady’s Hands: He’s had remarkable success against the Steelers thru the years. I know they want to push the running game, but this week, let #12 take the reins and trust in him to get it done.

Target the Big Men: I just have a feeling that the bigger WRs (Gordon and Patterson) are a more difficult matchup for the Steeler secondary this week. This is a situation the Patriots haven’t had much of thru the years. Their WRs tend to be the smaller quicker ones. But both Gordon and Patterson are big and very athletic. Add Gronk to the mix and they’ll be difficult to stop.

Play a Clean Game: The team can’t afford any turnovers this week. The Steelers offense is explosive and can score quickly and they don’t need to be giving them any short fields, especially on the road. No turnovers and win third downs and the red zone.

I think this one will go down to the wire, but the Patriots go home with a very close win. Brady works his magic in Pittsburgh once again. Patriots 31-27

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: We Are On To Pittsburgh!

Russ Goldman
December 12, 2018 at 12:23 pm ET

In this episode, we preview the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Steelers. On top of that, we have a discussion on the potential reasons why the Patriots have dominated the Steelers for several seasons now.

However, we do start the show by looking back at the loss in Miami, and there is plenty of blame to go around.

Patriots Finish Strong, Improve to 8-3, Beat the Jets 27-13; Observations

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2018 at 9:03 pm ET

In the end, we knew this would be a typical Patriots-Jets game in the Meadowlands. The Patriots were very much up and down in the first half in all phases of the game, but played much better in the second half, dominating the Jets with a punishing ground game, pulling away to beat the Jets 27-13.

We’ll get to our observations but first some quick hitters for the history buffs. The win which put the Patriots at 8-3, guarantees New England a .500 record or better for 18 straight years. The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL record with 21.

And Tom Brady set the NFL record for most yards passing in his career, both regular and postseason, passing Peyton Manning. Surprisingly, (perhaps not so), it scarcely got a mention on the telecast and the NFL? Crickets.

**Update**:  The Steelers lost in Denver and the Patriots are now the #2 seed behind Kansas City. The two teams will play in Pittsburgh later this year, but the Steelers also have games next week against the Chargers and the Saints after they play the Patriots.

Some observations from the game include:

  • Running Game Set the tone: The Patriots offensive line took this game over in the second half. After being tied at 10 at halftime, the Pats outscored the Jets 17-3 and they did it with the running game. Sony Michel was excellent, rushing 21 times for 133 yards and a TD. NE ran for 215 yards, the most since the Jonas Gray game in Indy. James White added 73 yards on nine carries.
  • Welcome Back Gronk: The Patriots big man made his return to the field, for the first time in nearly a month and his impact was felt in both the passing and running games. He had three catches for 56 yards, including a beautifully thrown ball for a 34-yard touchdown by Brady. That was an encouraging sign. It was his first TD since Week 1 against Houston.
  • Bowles Plays by the Book and it Costs Him: In the first quarter, the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 2 from the Jets 24. Brady tried a deep pass to Edelman that was incomplete. James White was flagged for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference. Rather than let the Pats attempt a 41-yard goal, Jets coach Todd Bowles took the penalty, giving Brady another 3rd down shot on the Jets 34 with 12 yards to go. That’s when Brady hit Gronkowski down the seam for a TD.
  • Containment Still an Issue: We have heard ad nauseam about containing mobile quarterbacks, but what about a 39-year old journeyman? Too many times today and it has been an issue all season, the Patriots edge players were running past Josh McCown and allowing him to step up and throw the ball or scramble for yardage.
  • Brady Bum Knee? Not Visible: Tom Brady played well today and completed 20-31 for 283 yards with 2 TDs, the 34-yarder to Gronk and a 21-yard play to Julian Edelman. He averaged 9.1 yards per attempt and his QB rating was 115.4. He set another personal milestone passing Manning but that is nary a mention, even among the team. Best of all, Brady was spreading the ball around. Eight different receivers caught passes today…much more like it.
  • Defense-Tight Ends and Backs in the Passing game: The Patriots defense is facing the same thing every week, as teams have recognized what their weakness is and are exploiting it. They have issues covering opposing tight ends and backs out of the backfield are making the LBs appear really slow in coverage.
  • Offense Thy Name is Versatility: With Michel and White setting the tone on the ground, the Patriots rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense. Getting Shaq Mason back was a boost in the running game. But as we mentioned above, Brady shared the wealth in the passing game. Edelman led the way with 84 yards on four catches, Josh Gordon had 70 yards on five catches, Gronk with 56 on 3 grabs and Chris Hogan had two catches for 47 yards.
  • Penalties were a Thorn in the Backside: Coming into the game, the television crew mentioned that this refereeing team led by Ed Hochuli’s son, called the most penalties per game in the NFL. And they wasted little time in making their presence felt. The Patriots were flagged a season-high 11 times for 105 yards. Normally, I’d say here, this is something that the Patriots need to clean up. But they are never penalized much and this is the outlier. Today was more about the officiating crew than it was about the team.
  • The Play-calling, especially in the Red Zone: The Patriots, as we mentioned above rolled up almost 500 yards of offense…so scoring 27 points is low for that kind of day. The play calling by Josh McDaniels is getting very predictable in the red zone is a constant area where the team leaves points on the field every week. Three straight passes after a first and goal from the nine-yard line, the same play run twice with virtually no chance of success. That was an ugly sequence.  
  • Melifonwu Plays for His Hometown Team: Newly signed safety Obi Melifonwu saw some defensive snaps and plenty of work in the kicking game. He’s a guy I’d like to see more of in the tight end coverage role. But for his first action with his new team, it was a good debut.

Overall, the Patriots got out of the Meadowlands exactly what they wanted/needed. They got a road win in the division at a place where the opponent always plays them tough. They got a lot of their pieces on offense back and rolled up a ton of yardage.

They return home for a big Sunday afternoon game against Minnesota at 8-3 with a three-game lead over Miami with the tie-breaker in hand. The running game has been rediscovered with Michel, which we predicted in our keys to the game as well as the score which was spot on:

“New England will rediscover their running game with Sony Michel and force a couple of turnovers to pull away late in the game. Patriots 27-14”

Coupled with a late afternoon Pittsburgh loss and the Pats are now the #2 seed. There is plenty of football left to be played and this team still has a long way to go. But things are beginning to fall into place for them.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

New England Patriots News 11-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-18, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

Not a SB Team?  Former Patriot front office assistant to Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi stated he has serious doubts that this Patriot team has what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl this year. On a podcast, he was direct in his belief.

“To me, this is not a good Patriots team. I have been saying it all year,” Lombardi said.

“They struggle to make explosive plays. Whether they have Gronk or don’t have Gronk, I think it is really problematic for them. When they are on the road — they didn’t have Shaq Mason at right guard, Ted Karras had to play in there — I thought the Titans did a great job. And Corey Davis here is a guy who has had one play over 25 yards all season. He had a 23-yard against the Eagles and a 55-yarder. The guy really makes plays down the field and he had seven (catches) for 125 (yards) in the game. That is not good.”

Did you Know? That yesterday November 17 was the 50th anniversary of the famous “Heidi” game. In 1968, the Jets and Raiders were locked in an epic shootout and the network cut away from the game to broadcast the film “Heidi” in their 4 p.m. time slot. The Raiders scored twice in the last minute to win 43-32, but the only people in America that got to see that were the fans in the stadium.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With 147 yards passing next week against the Jets, Tom Brady will become the NFL leader in passing yardage, regular and post-season combined.
Peyton Manning ……………………….79,279
Tom Brady …………………………….   79,133
Brett Favre………………………………. 77,693
Drew Brees ………………………………77,255

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2003, the Patriots are 46-7 (.868 win percentage) following a loss. That doesn’t bode extremely well for a Jets upset next week in the Meadowlands, but that is why they play the games.

Did you Know Pt. 4: Things that make you go hmm. There was a stat on social media, the other day, and I truly can’t remember who posted it to give proper credit, but here is a good one, especially for the “Belichick can’t draft” crowd.

Teams with the most draft picks that are still in the NFL:
Bengals     61
Ravens      54
Seahawks 54
49ers         53
Patriots     52

Now factor in WHERE the Patriots draft in relation to those other teams as well as everyone else, and presto!, their ratio isn’t so bad now, is it?

James White set a new personal best with 66 catches and is only 11 away from a new Patriots record. Tony Collins set the team record with 77 catches in 1986. White is also right on pace with some of the best #s of catches by a running back after 10 games.
Reggie Bush     2007  New Orleans  67
Larry Centers   1996  Arizona           67
Matt Forte        2014  Chicago           67
James White    2018  New England  66

Kaepernick to the Patriots Rumors:  The Patriots were rumored in September to be in talks with QB Colin Kaepernick to bring him to New England to back up Tom Brady. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, kind of dismissed that idea, not really confirming or denying it was true. However, in an interview with Devin Gordon of the NY Times, Kraft had this interesting tidbit about Kaepernick. “Let me say this: I would very much like to see him in the league,” Kraft said. That should stoke the Kaepernick to NE rumors again.

Heating Up in the Colder (Snowy?) Weather:  Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-29 with a winning percentage of .784 on or after Thanksgiving. That is the best in the NFL. Under Bill Belichick, Patriots teams always seem to get better as the season rolls along. Let’s see how this starts out in 2018 next week against the Jets.

Now Things Get Interesting, Pats Down the Stretch:

Last week we wrote that the Patriots lost a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Chiefs who are 9-1 and now two games ahead of the Patriots in the AFC. The loss dropped New England out of the top two as Pittsburgh only has two losses (6-2-1). But the Patriots are far from out of the running for a bye once the playoffs roll around. Why? Take a look at the schedules of the teams involved.

The Chiefs (9-1) have an upcoming game this week against the Rams, and also have games upcoming against the Chargers, the Seahawks (in Seattle) and a possible trap game against the Ravens who have a tough defense.

The LA Chargers (7-2), I still have a hard time NOT saying San Diego, have games coming up against the Steelers, Chiefs and possible trap games against the Ravens and Bengals.

The Steelers (6-2-1) have the Chargers and then the Patriots and Saints in back-to-back games and also play the Jaguars today, the team who beat them twice in Pittsburgh last season.

The Patriots (7-3) have games with Minnesota, Miami (on the road where they always seem to play like poo-poo) and the Steelers

Everybody can’t win out, they all play each other. And think about this, the Chargers are only a game behind the Chiefs in the loss column, that division is far from locked up. So, the Patriots are in a position where, if they play well down the stretch, should be in a great position to lock up a first-round bye for the playoffs. The games will get very intriguing from here on out.

Areas That Need Improving Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots off this week, they always do their own self-scouting and look to where the team feels it needs improving to finish the season strong. We’re going to post our own analysis on where we feel the team needs to improve to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs and possibly parlay that into another game for NE in February.

Improve Special Teams- Specifically the coverage units. Very uncharacteristically for a Bill Belichick team, the Patriots have been bad in kick coverage this year. They currently rank 29th and 31st correspondingly in Punt and Kick coverage.

That is not good, especially with a defense that has had its struggles this year. The team seems to have already addressed those issues. They brought in STs/LBs Albert McClellan, formerly of the Ravens last week and just signed Ramon Humber who has spent time with the team in the past.

The return units are actually rounding into form quite well. The Patriots rank 2nd in the league in kickoff return yardage and 2nd in punt return average.

Get a Healthy Gronk and Burkhead Back for the Offense- The Patriots offense, while scoring at the 8th best mark in the league, can actually be much, much better. They’ve been very inconsistent and need to get their key skill position players healthy as well as their offensive line for a late-season push.

Gronkowski has missed several games and has been hobbled for much of the season beyond that. Besides being the best overall tight end in the game when he’s healthy, he provides matchup nightmares for defensive coordinators. If opponents double him, they leave someone else open. He’s a devastating blocker in the running game as well. Jacob Hollister has also been hurt most of the year, so it has left the tight end position with very little production. Dwayne Allen has two catches on the year.

Burkhead is a very valuable piece as he can spell both Sony Michel in the running game and James White in the passing game. While he’s the equal of neither in their respective strengths, his versatility makes him keep opposing defenses honest. Getting both Gronkowski and Burkhead back and healthy for a stretch run will do wonders for the Patriots offense.

Where’s The Beef (Pass Rush)- Thru the first 10 games the Patriots have just 15 sacks. That is 30th in the NFL and isn’t going to get it done. While they have gotten decent enough pressure on opposing QBs, the pass rush has to get home with much more regularity. It is a big difference between an incomplete pass on 2nd and 4 because of pressure and facing a 3rd and 12 or 13.

Trey Flowers has been outstanding and does so many things well, but the other players need to step up their games more. Although even Flowers would be best served with a bit more production as well.

They’ve been creating some extra pressure by using corner and linebacker blitzes. But as we’ve seen before, the best teams will pick up on those and it can be a dangerous situation if they do.

Brady Needs to Spread the Wealth Around- One of the things that has reared its ugly head last week in the loss to the Titans was the fact that Brady was locking into his primary receivers (Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, James White) and has pretty much ignored his secondary WRs (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett).

That’s always been a sure sign that Brady is struggling and that needs to change. Brady had Hogan wide open with what appeared to be a touchdown last week, instead, forcing the ball to Edelman on 4th down.

This plays into what we mentioned above and getting everyone back and healthy but he needs to do a bit better job overall and certainly to use all of his weapons. He said as much this week.

Brady and the Cliff…Keep Praying Boys, It May Come True Someday:

Our buddy Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda wrote a very intriguing piece the other day where he said there is a very real number of national football writers and NFL fans that can’t wait for the demise of Tom Brady. Mike hit it right on the head and I would encourage everyone here to check it out. And it is true.

Many of the hot take artists are really just jock sniffers wrapped up in a suit on national television. Brady has never fit the narrative because he was never supposed to be “the guy”. A 6th round draft pick #199 taken behind some of the quarterbacks that went before him in the draft that were underachievers…would be a politically correct term. He was supposed to be an asterisk on the minds of all. “Remember Tom Brady?” “Oh yeah, that unathletic kid from Michigan that won a bowl game…he wasn’t going to ever make it in the NFL.”

Remember 2001, that was a great story…9/11, We are all Patriots…yeah he had his moment but to the hot take crowd that was his 15 seconds. Now move over kid, the great one “Manning the #1 pick in the draft, he is the ONE.”

But 2003 happened and the kid showed it wasn’t a flash in the pan and he led another final Super Bowl drive to give his team another win and the hot take crowd wasn’t happy. By 2004, the great story had turned to an open hatred of him, his unquotable coach and the team that won 3 out of 4 Super Bowls.

After leaving Manning in the dust with eight Super Bowl appearances and five wins, now the cretin, ultracrepidarians can’t wait for him to fail. Which is why after every Patriot loss, they rush to the microphone to spew their latest drivel about the “cliff’ or whatever else they do. Don’t bother. One of those loudly proclaimed after the 2011 Super Bowl loss to the Giants that “Tom Brady will never see another Super Bowl” Three SBs and two wins later, now this buffoon rushes to the microphone to say…”All of those don’t really count”. Okay.

The two real questions are #1. Who would hire someone who is more wrong than the worst weatherman in the U.S.? And #2, Are your lives so pathetic, the hate for all things NE so bad, that you rush to listen to this after every NE loss? I wonder how bad the cheering will be against Brady this February when NE and NO have the Super Bowl QB AARP game of the ages?  Don’t bet against it. I called it before Week 1 and I’m sticking to it until proven otherwise. Fast forward to the 37:15 mark and there it is.

“Let the hate flow thru you…”

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 7-7 Season 96-50-2 Bye Week: NE, Buf, Mia, NYJ, Browns, 49ers

Thursday night’s pick  Seahawks over Packers 1-0

Cincinnati at Baltimore: Ravens
Dallas at Atlanta: Falcons
Tampa Bay at NY Giants: G-men
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Houston at Washington: Texans
Tennessee at Indianapolis: Colts (SB Hangover)
Carolina at Detroit: Panthers
Denver at LA Chargers: Bolts
Oakland at Arizona: Raiders
Philadelphia at New Orleans: Saints (are we having fun yet?)
Minnesota at Chicago SNF: Vikings
Kansas City at LA Rams MNF: Rams

Thursday Early Pick: Seahawks over Packers

No AFC East Notes this week as everyone is on the bye week. We’ll have those back next week.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Podcast: Wild Card Weekend Recap And Titans vs. Patriots Preview

Russ Goldman
January 9, 2018 at 11:10 am ET

In this episode, we started off by sharing our predictions on the possibility of the Patriots winning another title, and becoming a Double Dynasty. We then shared our views on the Seth Wickersham article on ESPN.com.

Next, we looked back at all of the games on Wild Card Weekend. After that we previewed the other Divisional Round games. We finished the show by previewing the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Titans.

NFL Division Playoffs: Patriots favored by 13.5 vs Tennessee

John Morgan
January 7, 2018 at 9:00 pm ET

The 2017-18 NFL playoffs have progressed to the second round. Division playoff weekend is arguably the best of any week of an NFL season.

That is because all four of the best teams of the season are playing on a national stage.

At the same time NFL fans are treated to a four-game weekend, unlike the remainder of the playoffs. And as opposed to this last weekend, we get to watch all of the season’s best teams.

In what may be an unprecedented occurrence this year, the number six wild card team is a road favorite over the number one seed this post season. Let the (real) games begin…

 

NFL Division Game Playoff Odds and TV Info

Saturday January 13 at 4:30 pm ET on NBC
#6 Atlanta Falcons (11-6) at #1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Falcons favored by 2½
 
Saturday January 13 at 8:15 pm ET on CBS
#5 Tennessee Titans (10-7) at #1 New England Patriots (13-3)
Patriots favored by 13½
 
Sunday January 14 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) at #2 Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
Steelers favored by 7
 
Sunday January 14 at 4:30 pm ET on Fox
#4 New Orleans Saints (12-5) at #2 Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Vikings favored by 3½

 

2017 Playoffs: Predicting the Patriots Opponents

Ian Logue
January 2, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

With a bye week coming up for the Patriots, it’s safe to say that every fan in New England will be waiting with anticipation to find out who the first opponent will be one week from Saturday when they next take the field.

Looking at the two games in play for the AFC next weekend, it presents a couple of good match-ups that should set up an interesting postseason run for this year’s Patriots team.

Up first will see the Titans head out to Kansas City to face the Chiefs.  Looking at this game, the odds are pretty good that Tennessee won’t be able to handle a Chiefs team that really came on at the end of the year and ran off four straight victories and seems to have the momentum.  Tennessee, meanwhile, managed to eek out a win against Jacksonville but had lost three in a row prior to that game.

The biggest X-factor in that match-up will be which Marcus Mariota we’ll see in that game.  Mariota threw for less than 200 yards in four of Tennessee’s final six games and only threw for more than one touchdown three times all season.  In fact, he threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) in 2017.

But one of the biggest moments in Sunday’s win was a run by Mariota on 3rd-and-5 where he willed his way to a first down with just over 2-minutes left in the game, keeping the chains moving while allowing Tennessee to keep the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands until there was just 0:18 left to play to essentially secure the victory.

However, against the Chiefs, he’ll have to put up points if he hopes to keep his team in the game.  Kansas City has scored 27 or more points in all but one of their home games, compiling a 6-2 record over that span.  That seems unlikely and unless he can keep the Titans in the game, it would be hard to see Tennessee winning this one. Needless to say, the more likely opponent for New England next weekend will probably be the Chiefs.

Predicted Divisional Round Opponent: Chiefs


It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Jaguars upset Pittsburgh and end up in Foxboro. (USA TODAY Images)

Meanwhile, the Jaguars had their way against the Steelers earlier this season, showing no fear at Heinz Field as they forced five interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger, who was so distraught after the game he was questioning his future.

Despite their loss to Tennessee this past Sunday, the Jaguars are still playing good defense and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they upset the Bills and advance into the Divisional round.  That’s where things get a little interesting if the Patriots are able to get redemption against Kansas City.

With a potential match-up against New England riding on their success in this game, it’s entirely possible the Steelers could be looking a little too far ahead when the Jaguars come into Pittsburgh.  As a result, seeing  Jacksonville shock the Steelers’ faithful and force an early playoff exit doesn’t seem as much of a longshot as some may think.  The Jaguars have already done it once and if they’re able to beat Buffalo, it will be another confidence boost to use against an opponent who should have every reason to be afraid of a Jacksonville club who has already surprised everyone to get to where they are.

It would be pretty hilarious to see Pittsburgh be one-and-done, which would probably set up an interesting offseason after another squandered season by a group that had championship aspirations.

Last year, Roethlisberger was pondering retirement after New England knocked them out. If Pittsburgh goes down against Jacksonville, expect a similar situation after this one as well.

Predicted AFC Championship Opponent*:  Jacksonville
(*if NE advances)

It should be a fun couple of weeks and hopefully, it’s New England who is left standing by the time it’s over.  This is what Belichick’s club has fought so hard for to get to this point, so we’ll see how the second season plays out when they next hit the field in two weeks.