Neither the Patriots nor the Steelers played to the best of their abilities over the weekend, but each team advanced to next Sunday's AFC title game at Gillette Stadium.
Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger will lead their teams to battle once again, a spot in Super Bowl LI on the line.
As AFC Championship Game week kicks off, there's continued review of how the two teams earned their spots in the AFC Championship as well as some early looks at the matchup.
The Boston Globe says Devin McCourty showed impressive instincts for his interception in New England's Saturday night win over Houston. As Bill Belichick leads his team to an NFL-record sixth straight AFC title game, the Globe *says the debate is over in terms of greatest coach in history. *Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy is dreaming of a Super Bowl rematch between the Patriots and Packers.
The Globe offers up five early things to know about the Steelers. Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown let the world know what the team thinks of the Patriots via social media from the postgame locker room of the win in Kansas City. The Globe passes along Brady saying he's OK with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell coming to Sunday's game at Gillette. The Globe notes Rob Gronkowski's role in a soon-to-be-released action movie. The Globe takes a statistical look at Julian Edelman's role in New England. Vegas odds makers have installed the home teams – the Patriots and Falcons – the favorites to go to Super Bowl LI. The* Globe* says the New England offense is need of some fine tuning, while declaring that good enough isn't good enough after the tough win over the Texans.
The Boston Herald writes that the Patriots defense will get a "rare challenge" in dealing with the star-studded Steelers. The Herald says it's a case of the survival of the fittest for Brady and the Patriots. The Herald also notes that Brady expects more from both his offense and himself. The Herald passes along Brady saying Brown's social media stunt wouldn't go over well in New England. Brady also declares the obvious, saying the matchup with the Steelers will be a "tough game."
The Providence Journal says Logan Ryan had something to prove and did just that, including his huge contributions to the win over Houston. The ProJo writes that the Texans pass rush was an expected problem against Houston.
ESPNBoston.com relays Brady saying that when Packers QB Aaron Rodgers "is on, I usually stay up and watch." Seattle safety Earl Thomas also made news on social media this week, but Brady responded to the Seahawks' criticism with kindness, according to ESPNBoston.com. ESPNBoston.com steps back to put the Patriots six-game conference title game streak in perspective. Brady was also called out on social media by Rey Lewis. ESPNBoston.com looks at the limited reps ut big contribution from James White against Houston, as well as Martellus Bennett's even more quiet night in the win over the Texans.
ESPN looks at who has the edge in the two upcoming conference title games.
WEEI.com says that in one game to take it all, Brady is the pick over Rodgers. Elsewhere WEEI.com says that Rodgers' current work is actually Brady-esque. WEEI.com says that in some ways Thomas' Twitter criticism of the Patriots was right, New England isn't battle tested.
CSNNE.com writes that Brown's Facebook Live post was a "weird betrayal of the team's privacy" in Pittsburgh. CSNNE.com breaks down the Steelers red zone issues after kicking six field goals to win in Kansas City. CSNNE.com says Belichick sounds like he's still hot about Eric Rowe's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Texans.
NFL.com says the Patriots looked sloppy in the win over the Texans. NFL.com notes that former Patriots star and current Texan Vince Wilfork likely played his final game on Saturday night in Foxborough. NFL.com passes along Steelers stud running back Le'Veon Bell looking to avenge Pittsburgh loss to the Patriots earlier this season. A trio of Patriots notes are part of NFL.com's thoughts on the divisional round games.
The* New York Times* looks at Dion Lewis' role in the Patriots playoff advancement.
USA Today says the Steelers are indeed the team to push the Patriots.