A gift from Big Ben

617740.jpg

A gift from Big Ben

And just like that, the Pats are the No. 1 seed.

Not officially, but with the Steelers loss last night in power-shortaged San Francisco, the Patriots now sit alone atop the AFC. Now, with victories over Miami and Buffalo, the Pats will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That means they'll have already played their last road game of the season.

At least until Indianapolis.

Oops. Lost my mind for a second. But there's no denying that Week 15 did one hell of a job improving the Pats playoff chances. I wrote as much yesterday, but Pittsburgh's loss just hammered it home: With three weeks until the start of the playoffs, the AFC is the Patriots' to lose.

Quick transition.

What was Ben Roethlisberger thinking playing in that game last night?

I know he fancies himself a superhero (although I don't think the proposed name, Alleged Rapeman, will catch on), but his performance went beyond heroic and crossed over into selfish.

The guy could barely walk. He could barely throw. He could barely do anything you'd expect from an NFL quarterback especially when facing one of the best defenses in the league. Yet he insisted on playing; somehow his coaches LET him play.

With Roethlisberger under center last night, the Steelers didn't have a shot. You could say the same thing for "without Roethlisberger," but who cares? The playoffs are only three weeks away. What's more important: A first round bye or a healthy Ben Roethlisberger?

Anyway, in closing: Congrats, Ben. You're a true hero. You just cost yourself two weeks of rest, and for what? A loss, and the chance to have the world hear Jon Gruden undress you with his tongue for a few hours?

Good stuff, man.

New England thanks you.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Wright-Phillips scores 16th goal, Red Bulls beat Revs 1-0

Wright-Phillips scores 16th goal, Red Bulls beat Revs 1-0

HARRISON, N.J. - Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his 16th goal of the season in the 55th minute and the New York Red Bulls beat the New England Revolution 1-0 on Sunday.

Revs goalkeeper Brad Knighton saved Alex Muyl's shot and Wright-Phillips put back the deflection with a half-volley into the right corner. Wright-Phillips has 61 goals in 100 career MLS games.

The Red Bulls (11-9-7) extended their undefeated streak to nine games and moved into a third-place tie in the East with the Philadelphia Union. The Revolution (6-12-9) are winless in their last six.

Has Brissett removed Patriots' need for veteran quarterback help?

patriots_jacoby_brissett_082716.jpg

Has Brissett removed Patriots' need for veteran quarterback help?

FOXBORO – Talked to Jacoby Brissett on Sunday. His session with the media was as efficient and frills-free as his Friday night performance against the Carolina Panthers.

Brissett, the third-rounder From NC State, keeps improving. From 7-for-13 for 63 yards in the first game of the preseason to 9-for-13 for 87 yards Week 2 to a 9-for-9, 85-yard, one touchdown performance against Carolina.

He’s completed all manner of passes – inside, outside, checkdowns, tight windows – and looked preternaturally comfortable doing so.

Maybe I have a little recency bias working, but I don’t recall a drafted quarterback looking as poised and in command in his rookie preseason as Brissett has so far. Jimmy Garoppolo may have had more impressive game-by-game numbers, but Brissett oozes composure that that I don’t think Garoppolo matched.

Encircled by a media horde Sunday, Brissett was pleasant and perfunctory when asked about his performance.

“Definitely it was progress,” he said, adding that he’s, "still learning. I’m sure I’ll be learning until I leave here."

 Even though he was 9-for-9, Brissett said that watching film he could see “things you messed up on and could have done better.”

Asked for an example, Brissett talk about speed. At the line of scrimmage, going through progressions and delivering the ball, Brissett said all of it can improve.

The interesting question the Patriots face now is whether they are prepared to allow Brissett to be the lone backup to the still relatively green Garoppolo. Or does the team need an experienced backup to call on if Jimmy melts down?

Thursday night could be a telling evening for that. With Garoppolo unlikely to play a ton so the team can make sure he’s good to go for the opener, it comes down to who benefits more from reps against the Giants, Tom Brady or Brissett?

It shouldn’t be close. Brissett needs the reps.

Meanwhile, we made mention of Brissett’s relationship with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells after he was drafted and I figured revisiting that on Sunday wouldn’t hurt.

Brissett said he’s circled up with Parcells “here and there” but smiled knowingly and said, “He’s not the head coach here so you kinda need to listen to what your coach here is saying.”

Sunday's Red Sox-Royals lineups: Holt in for Pedroia at second base

red_sox_brock_holt_070416.jpg

Sunday's Red Sox-Royals lineups: Holt in for Pedroia at second base

The Boston Red Sox close out their three-game series against the Kansas City Royals without second baseman Dustin Pedroia. 

Brock Holt will be at second base for Pedroia who will miss the game, reportedly attending to a family matter.

Eduardo Rodriguez (2-5, 5.11 ERA) will be on the mound for the Sox, facing off against Yordano Ventura (9-9, 4.27 ERA).

The lineups:

ROYALS
Paulo Orlando CF
Cheslor Cuthbert 3B
Lorenzo Cain RF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Salvador Perez C
Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Raul Mondesi 2B
---
Yordano Ventura RHP

RED SOX
Brock Holt 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Sandy Leon C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
---
Eduardo Rodriguez LHP