Numbers, history on Patriots' side against Steelers

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The Bills have two games against the Miami Dolphins and one against the Patriots.

Despite their loss in Miami on Monday, the Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win or a Buffalo loss or tie on Sunday, and earn a playoff berth if the Ravens lose or tie to the Browns in Week 15. Not only can Hayward get after the quarterback, (9 sacks) the Patriots ground game would benefit from running away from him as well.

In big games like this, with two teams evenly matched, one way to get an advantage is to steal some extra possessions.

SPECIAL EDITION: The Patriots blocked kicks in three straight games from October 22 through November 12 (blocked field goal vs. Atlanta, blocked field goal vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, blocked punt vs. Denver). "Obviously his absence is a significant one and his presence is a significant one".

Bell often benefits from an incredible amount of open space when he catches the ball on checkdowns. That's why it comes down to other guys gotta make plays. "But the bottom line is you gotta make plays, you gotta stay on the field and you gotta finish drives with points". Early in the year, after Carolina stung them 33-30 at Gillette Stadium to drop New England to 2-2, there were questions about the defense, which was having a historically bad start.

The trend holds true when the Patriots go up against the Steelers too, who have made the playoffs 12 times in the last 17 seasons.

Of course, a win Sunday doesn't guarantee anything for the Patriots. "He would concern me as a receiver because the Patriots play a lot of man and what they've shown - and they may not do it in this game, because Bill (Belichick) is one of those guys who will change - but what they've shown is they match up (linebacker) Elandon Roberts on the back, and he does not do well on good receiving backs.You can go back to a year ago when they played Seattle in the night game and they lost and C.J. Prosise killed them".

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But a loss Sunday will be huge.

Baltimore would need to win out in order to knock the Patriots out of the first wild-card spot, as wins against the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals also would put them at 10-6 but with a better conference record (8-4) than the Patriots (7-5).

- Ben Roethlisberger is 3-5 against the Pats in the regular season and 0-2 against them in the postseason. Pittsburgh grabbed wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round of the draft and welcomed Martavis Bryant back from a yearlong suspension and signed two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden in August with an eye specifically on New England.

Since 2001 the Patriots have had a bye week in every season they've advanced to the Super Bowl.

INJURY REPORT: The Patriots have several players out for the season, including Marcus Cannon (ankle), Nate Ebner (knee), Don't'a Hightower (chest), and Cyrus Jones (knee).

There's a lot at stake here.

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