No pregame talk of a potential playoff rematch by Mike Tomlin.

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    No real implications for home-field advantage in the AFC.Not much hype either White Danny Shelton Jersey , at least not the kind that typically accompanies a meeting between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.Not with both teams coming off the kind of numbing road losses that can linger for weeks if not handled properly.Yes, the Patriots (9-4) and Steelers (7-5-1) still lead their divisions, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel like it.Not after the New England found itself on the wrong end of the “Miami Miracle” last week while Pittsburgh slipped to a third straight defeat in Oakland , one that left its postseason prospects iffy at best.”It’s not ideal, but we are in (first),” Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said. “We haven’t won the games we’re supposed to and that’s on us. … But there’s still a lot on the line.”Particularly for Pittsburgh. The Steelers lead Baltimore by just a half-game in the AFC North. Pittsburgh will reach the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season by winning its final three games. It makes the math pretty easy.The task itself is considerably harder considering New England’s mastery over Pittsburgh for the better part of two decades.The Patriots have won each of the past five games between the two perennial AFC powers, including a 27-24 victory at Heinz Field last season that included a chaotic fourth quarter featuring a New England rally and an overturned call on a seemingly obvious go-ahead touchdown grab by Steelers tight end Jesse James in the final minute that ultimately led to an NFL rule change.While Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shrugged off his team’s spotty record when facing Tom Brady 鈥?who is 11-2 all-time against Pittsburgh 鈥?by pointing out “we are not the only team that has issues with them” 鈥?he’s well aware his club’s margin for error has vanished.”I don’t think confidence, there isn’t a loss in it, (but) an understanding of what we need to do,” Roethlisberger said. “We need to face adversity in the face and just kind of (get) ready for maybe one of the biggest challenges we had all year.”New England’s playoff position isn’t nearly as perilous, even after allowing the Dolphins to turn a double-lateral on the final snap into a stunning 69-yard touchdown, a play that ended with tight end Rob Gronkowski working at deep safety and futilely diving at Kenyan Drake as the Miami running back crossed the goal line.”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 really honestly, we’ve got to move on to Pittsburgh,” Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores said. “So, if that situation kind of shows up again, I think we’ll handle it better.”The Patriots can win a staggering 10th consecutive AFC East title with a victory and a loss by the Dolphins in Minnesota. Not that they’re particularly concerned about what happens in other stadiums. Going against a team desperate to get things right is a big enough task.”They’re going to come out and give us their best shot,” New England running back James White said. “They’re going to throw everything they have at us. We’ve just got to be prepared to execute and see what their game plan is for us and kind of adjust from there.”NO REARVIEW MIRROR”The Jesse James rule” became a part of the NFL lexicon during the offseason after the league altered the rule that turned James’ apparent touchdown grab in the fourth quarter into an incompletion.League director of officiating Al Riveron said the James’ catch did not “survive the ground” when he reached across the goal line, a move that resulted in the ball briefly slipping from his grasp. The rule was amended before the 2018 season White Stephon Gilmore Jersey , allowing for some movement of the ball as long as the receiver maintains control.James has done his best to not let the memory linger even if the loss cost the Steelers home field in the playoffs. Their season ended when they were upset at home by Jacksonville in the divisional round.”It doesn’t matter which way it went,” James said. “If we would have been Super Bowl champions, we would have been Super Bowl champions after that game. We just didn’t have what it took to make a playoff run.”RUN FOCUSThe Patriots have struggled against the run all season, particularly on the road. New England has allowed nearly 150 yards rushing in its four losses, all of which have come away from Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have given up 37 runs of more than 10 yards and nine runs of 20 or more yards this season, including a season-high 54-yard touchdown run to Miami’s Brandon Bolden last week.Pittsburgh is hopeful running back James Conner will be back after sitting out last week’s game against Oakland with an ankle injury. Conner is sixth in the NFL in yards rushing.”The run game’s been something that we need to do a much better job of coaching, do a better job of playing,” Flores said. “Teams are going to keep running the ball or attempting to run the ball until we do something to stop it.”NUMBERS GAMEBrady needs 141 yards to become the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 70,000 yards. Brady enters Sunday ranked fourth with 69,859 passing yards. Drew Brees is first with 73,908, followed by Peyton Manning (71,940) and Brett Favre (71,838). … Gronkowski has overwhelmed the Steelers through the years, averaging 110 yards receiving against Pittsburgh, including 168 last season._Week 1 Roundup: Thoughts on the Patriots and other NFL storylines If you’re a Boston sports fan, Sunday, Sept. 9 was a pretty good day. In fact, it was pretty much the picture-perfect sports day for anyone living in the Boston area. Does it get much better than a football-baseball double-header in mid-September? These are the days when you can just escape the copious amounts of stress that life heaps upon all of us and just dive headfirst into a day filled with nothing but sports. And a pair of victories.First those who took advantage of the double-header, first you ventured out to Foxboro to watch the Patriots kick off their 2018 season against the Houston Texans. You watched 41-year-old Tom Brady do his normal thing: throwing for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns as the Pats opened the season by making a statement. Then, you came back to Boston for the nightcap at Fenway Park, in which the Red Sox walked off against the Astros in the bottom of the ninth to avoid a three-game sweep. Sunday couldn’t have turned out better. It’s days like these that we will look back on in about a month, when the Red Sox bullpen coughs up a three-run lead in the eighth inning in Game 7 of the ALCS because their bullpen is an utter nightmare. But even then , we’ll still have Sept. 9, 2018.Meanwhile, not only did the Patriots win their season opener, but Week 1 was pretty wild all around the NFL 鈥?especially the Packers-Bears game on Sunday Night Football. I’ll get more into that later, but Bears fans: please know that you have my sympathy. That was as brutal of a defeat as I have ever witnessed.Here are a few thoughts following the first NFL Sunday of 2018 鈥?#45;- I think the most encouraging thing I took away from Sunday’s Pats-Texans game was how well the New England defense stepped up. Obviously, you knew they wouldn’t be completely awful like they were in the Super Bowl because Dont’a Hightower was back, and also Matt Patricia was gone. But last year in Week 3, Deshaun Watson came into Gillette Stadium as a rookie and carved up the Pats for 33 points. On Sunday, they had Watson all out of sorts. He fumbled the ball on Houston’s very first snap of the game, for instance. At one point, he carelessly heaved the ball from midfield to the end zone and was intercepted by Stephon Gilmore. Watson’s overall confidence seemed a little shaken. He’ll get it together, but New England definitely succeeded in making him uncomfortable.Above all else, the Texans struggled mightily in the red zone, and didn’t manage to score a touchdown until the final two minutes of the third quarter. After that abysmal Super Bowl, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Patriots’ defensively coming into 2018. Their performance on Sunday was good to see.– If you’re a Bills fan, you’ve got to be slamming your head against a brick wall right now. Last year the Bills finally snapped their playoff drought, and now they are being forced to watch Nathan Peterman as their quarterback. I was wondering what the over/under would be for how many games it would take for Josh Allen to be forced into action because Peterman would just be so unbelievably bad.Turns out, Peterman didn’t even last a full game. At one point, it was 39-0 Ravens, and the camera just zoomed in on Peterman standing on the sideline with his helmet on and wearing a heavy jacket to try and keep warm from the rain, and he just looked completely dumbfounded. It was like he couldn’t even comprehend what was happening. The rookie Allen came in to play the fourth quarter and wound up with more completed passes and more passing yards than Peterman, who also had two interceptions. On the plus side for Buffalo fans, the Bills may very well have the first overall pick in the draft next year.– After finishing in a 21-21 tie with the Browns , don’t be surprised if Steelers fans choose not to show their faces for the rest of year. That’s just straight up embarrassing.Alright, I’m running really short on time, so I need to wrap this column up quickly. I’m going to plow through these last few points faster than the speed of light.– I have no idea what happened in New Orleans between the Saints and the Bucs (final score: Bucs 48, Saints 40). But I do have one question: is Tampa Bay going to be looking to trade Jameis Winston any time soon? Apparently they score more points without him.– Just like I expected, the Kansas City Chiefs offense is the real deal. Tyreek Hill went off for 169 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while first-year starting QB Pat Mahomes threw four touchdown passes on 256 passing yards. Since Jon Gruden totally dismantled the Raiders, I don’t see how the Chiefs don’t win the AFC West.(PS: Mahomes is the backup QB on my fantasy football team, but he might have just earned his way into my starting lineup for Week 2.)– Speaking of fantasy football, I have both Saquon Barkley and the Jaguars defense on my team, and they played against each other in Week 1. But it turned out perfect though, because Barkley broke away for a 68-yard touchdown, and the Jags intercepted Eli Manning for a pick six. Both sides greatly contributed to my fantasy football needs. I appreciate the love and support, guys. Thank you.– Alright, to wrap this baby up real quick, I just want to say this: for Chicago fans, I’ve seen few losses in sports tougher than that Sunday night game. The Bears at one point led 20-0, and in the first half, Aaron Rodgers had been knocked out of the game in what everyone feared might be a season-ending knee injury.But Rodgers miraculously recovered and came back for the second half, and he lit up the Chicago defense in just about every way possible, including a ridiculous 75-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to give Green Bay a 24-23 lead — and ultimately the win. There were just no words to be spoken.No words other than 鈥?sorry, Chicago.

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