Surprise — all is not completely lost, Patriots fans
Let’s face it, what happened to the New England Patriots last Sunday afternoon is something you’d expect would happen to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
No team as talented as Pittsburgh is has underachieved late in games the way these Steelers do. The question is, was this just a one game blip for this Patriots team? Remember, while they struggle in Miami, they thrive at Heinz Field.
“History doesn’t matter,” Patriots running back James White said. “It’s all about how we’re going to perform this Sunday.”
The thing is, this would be an extension of a classic collapse for the Steelers. They’ve lost three in a row, including at Denver and home to San Diego, and then at Oakland. They need to win the AFC North to make the playoffs; a Wild Card likely isn’t in the picture. They need Sunday’s game more than the Patriots, although New England wants no part of Wild Card Weekend.
And, thanks to the Chargers win in one of the most poorly officiated finishes of the year on Thursday night, the Patriots have a very realistic shot still at the top seed.
Why? If the Patriots win Sunday, they will go 3-0 to finish the season at 12-4, agreed? If they do that, and the Chiefs and Chargers lose one of their last two, the Patriots should finish with the top AFC seed. No joke. L.A.has to play the Ravens and the Chiefs have to go to Seattle. It’s very possible.
But the Steelers have to worry about getting in, period.
“They’re going to come out and give us their best shot,” White said. “They’re going to throw everything they have at us.”
The Patriots have a chance to bury this team and also put a lot of heat on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. But the way Pittsburgh has played late in the season and in the playoffs under his guy the last few years, do you really want to jeopardize his tenure?
“There’s nothng that we can do about it,” Tomlin said of the team’s last three losses. “It’s nothing that we can do about the three that we lost. It’s nothing tha we can do about the five or six before that that we won. We are what we are.”
Which is a classic underachieving team that in many areas is poorly coached. Let’s see if they play like one on Sunday:
PATRIOTS 31, STEELERS 21
The temptation here is to pick against New England. But Team Drama, the Steelers, is banged up all over, from Big Ben Roethlisberger to running back James Conner. Their defense stinks, but the Patriots’ is no great shakes, either. But if the Steelers can allow a deep pass in the final minute vs. the Raiders, how do you think they can stop one to Josh Gordon?Go with the numbers, Tom Brady being 11-2 vs. this team. Should have done that last week.
TEXANS 24, JETS 13
Besides NE-Pitt and the already played Chiefs-Chargers, this is one of the few All-AFC games and it’s today to boot. Let’s see how Houston recovers from its stunning loss to the Colts at home. We say they’ll do well; c’mon, it’s the Jets. But it won’t be as easy as it looks, but rookie QB Sam Darnold will throw at least two picks.
BEARS 17, PACKERS 6
Oh that Bears defense. Especially at home. Oh the Green Bay quarterback Rodgers. Especially at home, like he was when he came back from the dead (knee injury) in the Sunday Night Football opener some 60 degrees in temperature ago. This one’s in Chicago, and the feeling you may have gotten back in September that this Bears team is pretty good. Stick with that.
RAMS 30, EAGLES 17
Boy, NBC would likely have loved to have flexed out of this one after seeing the Eagles the last couple of weeks, right? The defending Super Bowl champs aren’t getting a sniff of the playoffs this year. The Bears, Saints or Rams are your NFC champ. Let’s see how Jared Goff & Co. recover from a tough loss.
SAINTS 23, PANTHERS 20
We said last week that the Rams, if they want to be a Super Bowl team, needed to win a tough road game like the one with Chicago last Sunday night. They didn’t. We’re saying the same thing about the Who Dats, although the Panthers have proven to be not very good. Brees over Newton, but it won’t be, well, a breeze on the road on Monday night. Joe Tessitore will be going crazy.
VIKINGS 27, DOLPHINS 26
Vikings expect a big change after firing their offensive coordinator, but it’s going to take a Desperado play as time expires to pull this one out at home. What goes around, comes around.
COLTS 24, COWBOYS 21
Adam Vinatieri boots one as time expires. Hey, the Dallas ride has to end at some point, right? Indy is on a serious playoff push; the ‘Boys can snooze all the way to the NFC East title by default.
LAST WEEK: 4-3
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251 or email@example.com. Also, follow King on Twitter (@Telegraph_TomK).