A positive sign for Pats

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A positive sign for Pats

I know it's hard to focus on this Sunday's game when there's so much quality ref bashing to be had, but I figured I'd interrupt the national crisis with a bit of good news about the Pats' Week 4 opponent.

First of all, it's the Buffalo Bills. And while I know that the Bills are currently 2-1, and thus ahead of New England in the standings, let's not forget that those two wins came against the Chiefs and Browns. In the same breath, we can't forget that this will be a road game for the Pats. A road game within the division. A road game within the division that they lost last year. Obviously, it won't be easy.

But it could be a lot worse.

Especially since the Bills will likely be short their two most dynamic players.

I say "likely" because neither CJ Spiller nor Fred Jackson has been officially ruled out, but both are a long shot to play. Spiller a former first round pick who's blown up this season sprained his shoulder on Sunday against the Browns, and was initially pegged to miss 1-2 weeks. Jackson explosive in his own right hurt his knee in Week 1 and was initially expected to miss at least a month. Both will try to practice, but both will be fighting an uphill battle.

So, there's the good news.

The bad news? Well, the Bills still have a quarterback and a competent fleet of receivers.

And the Pats still have Devin McCourty.

Now, back to killing the replacement refs.

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

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)