Here's a look at the AFC Championship game:
Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) at the New England Patriots (15-2)
Game time: 6:40 p.m., Sunday
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
Player to watch: Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell. He is on a ridiculous tear right now. He ran for 167 yards in the wild-card playoff round against the Dolphins and 170 last weekend against the Chiefs. Dating back to Nov. 20 he's topped 110 yards in seven of eight starts (and hit 93 in the other) and averaged 146.5 rushing yards per game in that span. The Patriots have the NFL's fourth-best rushing defense (yielding 88.6 yards per game) so this could be quite a test for Bell. If the Patriots can hold him under 100 it's probably game over for the Steelers. Bell having another big day would seem to be Pittsburgh's best chance for staying in this game.
The matchup: There are plenty of dynamic weapons in this game. The Patriots obviously have Tom Brady and an ever-changing cast of supporting actors. Last week it was running back Dion Lewis and receiver Julian Edelman, but don't look past running back LeGarrette Blount or receiver Chris Hogan. For the Steelers it's all about the Big 3 -- quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Antonio Brown, and Bell. They can do a lot of damage. One big overlooked factor, though, is that no team gave up fewer points per game this season than the Patriots (15.6). They have the NFL's eighth-ranked defense. Only one of their last eight opponents has topped 17 points, and the Pats have yielded just 36 total points in their last four games.
How they got here: The Patriots won the AFC East for the eight straight season, and for the 13th time in 14 years. They earned the No. 1 seed in the conference and a first-round bye, and then had little trouble with the Houston Texans last weekend, beating them 34-16 in the divisional round. … The Steelers won the NFC North and finished as the No. 3 seed, then pounded the Miami Dolphins 30-12 in Pittsburgh in the wild-card round before squeaking by the Kansas City Chiefs, 18-16, in the divisional round last Sunday.
Prediction: Tom Brady sure looked angry this past week, possibly due to the Patriots' mostly unimpressive performance in the divisional playoffs last weekend. And haven't we all learned by now that nobody (outside of New England) likes it when Tom Brady is angry? The Steelers have the weapons to keep up with him, of course, but they've turned far too many touchdown chances into field goals over the last few weeks. In fact, twice in the last five games their kicker, Chris Boswell, has had a six field goal game. That won't work against the Patriots (and Angry Brady). Because the Patriots are going to score. They just have way too many underrated weapons and are way too good at reinventing themselves to be held in check. Whether they roll with Lewis and Edelman again or whether Bill Belichick comes up with something else, that offense will click. And against their very underrated defense, the Steelers might be able to move the ball, but scoring touchdowns could be a challenge. … Patriots 27, Steelers 17.