Even with Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the regular season, the New England Patriots cruised to their 13th division title in 14 seasons, going 14-2 and winning the AFC East by a cozy four games. The Patriots also sashayed their way past the Houston Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs, winning 34-16 in a game in which the Pats were favored by more than two touchdowns. This all means that when the AFC Championship game kicks off late Sunday afternoon, the Patriots will be playing their first important game of the season and that should scare the bejeezus out of the Steelers. Back in Week 8, Albert Breer of the MMQB wrote about how the Patriots were holding back early in the season, saving both their players and possibly key elements of their playbook for more important games later in the season. As I understand it, the experience of going into the AFC title game beaten to a pulp with injuries last January has prompted New England to handle its players a little differently this season. In essence, there are games where they’ve accepted not going with a full roster. They were cautious with… Read full this story
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