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Juicy matchup in Steel City

If the Patriots are the NFL's team of the last decade, the Steelers are a close runner-up.

Indeed, Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowls since the Patriots last grabbed the title. Since 2005, the Steel Curtain owns three AFC crowns to one for New England.

But the Patriots (5-1) have won three of the last four meetings and Tom Brady nearly always outplays Ben Roethlisberger when they face off. New England is 6-1 against Pittsburgh when Brady starts, and he is averaging 286 yards passing a game with 14 touchdowns against three interceptions versus the Steelers.

Even when the Steelers have been strong on the turnover charts, it hasn't helped much against Brady and Co. Now, Pittsburgh (5-2) is at the bottom of the conference with a minus-9 differential and has a measly three takeaways. That must change Sunday at Heinz Field when the 3-point favorite Patriots visit.

"I've been here for most of those losses, (Brady) has had our number," linebacker Larry Foote said. "We have to try and correct that this Sunday."

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It is no easy chore, particularly with AFC East leader New England coming off a bye. Still, the Patriots are struggling on defense, Brady has been sacked 11 times and thrown eight picks. Pittsburgh has 17 sacks and has won three straight to take the AFC North lead.

"They don't dance around. They're not finesse whatsoever," Patriots defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. "Everybody runs hard. They don't mind hitting. They like to hit. It's a very physical team. More physical than we have seen this year."

And New England is more potent offensively than anyone the Steelers have seen, ranked first in yards passing and overall offense and averaging just under 31 points a game.

"They are doing what they usually do," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said.

Which means beating the Steelers.

PATRIOTS, 30-23

 

Miami (plus 10) at New York Giants

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We get the feeling last week's collapse will carry over for woeful Dolphins. Giants getting healthy after bye.

BEST BET: GIANTS, 28-10

 

Cincinnati (minus 3) at Seattle

Tough week to find an underdog we project to win outright.

UPSET SPECIAL: SEAHAWKS, 17-16

 

Dallas (plus 3½) at Philadelphia

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Huge NFC East matchup that could determine future of division.

EAGLES, 24-23

 

San Diego (plus 3½) at Kansas City, Monday night

Have to like the way Chiefs turned it around despite major injuries.

CHIEFS, 21-20

 

Buffalo (minus 6) vs. Washington at Toronto

Things are falling apart in DC. A trip to the Great White North won't help.

BILLS, 27-17

 

Cleveland (plus 9½) at San Francisco

Niners have kind of schedule that could earn them a bye if they stay on track.

49ERS, 20-6

 

Arizona (plus 13) at Baltimore

Angry and embarrassed Ravens are more fierce than these Cardinals.

RAVENS, 22-7

 

Indianapolis (plus 9) at Tennessee

Both teams come off humiliations. Titans more likely to bounce back.

TITANS, 24-13

 

Jacksonville (plus 9½) at Houston

Banged-up Texans got possible season-defining win last week. Jags impressed against Ravens.

TEXANS, 26-13

 

Minnesota (plus 3½) at Carolina

Newton vs. Ponder. Go with the more-veteran rookie.

PANTHERS, 27-16

 

New Orleans (OFF) at St. Louis

Too bad this is off the board (Sam Bradford's injury); would've been Best Bet.

SAINTS, 38-13

 

Detroit (OFF) at Denver

No line because of Matthew Stafford's right ankle injury. Shaun Hill is a decent backup.

LIONS, 23-20

___

RECORD:

Against spread: 8-4-1 (overall 59-38-3); straight up 9-4 (overall 71-32).

Best Bet: 2-5 against spread, 4-3 straight up.

Upset Special: 6-1 against spread, 4-3 straight up.

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