For Pats, road to Dallas now paved Black and Gold

For Pats, road to Dallas now paved Black and Gold

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com
Start ordering those party platters for February 6. The Patriots chances of playing in the Super Bowl increased exponentially Saturday night. Ableak week of Ray Rice, revenge, reviling Ray Lewis and the revolting mug of Terrell Suggs we won't have to deal with. Instead, weget Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Polamalu's salad and the blitz schemes of Dick LeBeau.
Once the Patriots take care of business against the New York Jets as they ought to on Sunday, the Steelers come next. And the Steelers can't beat the Patriots in a conference championship game. Just doesn't work. Had it been the Ravens, the swagger would have been de-swagged. The Patriots needed OT to beat Baltimore in Week 5, got crushed by them in last season's playoffs, barely hung on during the 2009 regular season and barely hung on during the 2007 regular season. The Ravens defense is nasty. And Suggs was playing like a force of nature. But the fact Baltimore has a better-than-average-but-not-by-much quarterback like Joe Flacco playing for them means they are going home. Once they stop bitching about the officials. Pittsburgh? In Roethlisberger, they have a legitimate "elite" quarterback, a guy who's got twice as many Super Bowl rings as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. You wouldn't want to see him show up in your driveway to pick up your daughter, but you would love to have Big Ben playing quarterback for you. Against most teams. But not New England. In Week 9, the Patriots beat Pittsburgh 39-26 and the stats Roethlisberger compiled (30 for 49 for 387 yards, 3 TDs and an INT)were a shining example of why QB passing stats are bogus. Roethlisberger took five sacks for 38 yards and the pick he threw was returned for a touchdown. He started 7 for 20 for 90 yards and took three sacks. After the score got to 29-10 early in the fourth (after the pick-6 by James Sanders), Big Ben went 14 for 16 (one was a spike) for 203 yards in chasing down a lost cause. When the game was a contest, he was 16 for 33 for 184 yards. Roethlisberger is 2-4 against the Patriots. He's 0-1 in the playoffs (the 2004 41-27 beatdown at Pittsburgh. He won his first start against the Pats in 2004 (the day Ty Law and Matt Light went down) and beat the Cassel-led Pats in 2008. Generally, the Patriots take care of business against Roethlisberger by lying back and making him process coverages. Eventually, he makes a wild throw because he's not terribly accurate. As for the Steelers defense, they can be a beast but not to Tom Brady. He's 6-1 against the Steelers lifetime. He toys with them. We've got plenty more to plow through on this matchup once it becomes a reality. Until then, treat yourself to some of this.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Mike Giardi: Don’t think Patriots will use franchise tag on Dont'a Hightower

Mike Giardi: Don’t think Patriots will use franchise tag on Dont'a Hightower

Mike Giardi discusses the odds that the New England Patriots franchise tag Dont'a Hightower and what he expects the Pats to get if they were to trade Jimmy Garoppolo.

Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

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Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

PHOENIX - The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the player.

The non-exclusive tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks.

It's unlikely that any team would express interest in Jones, however, given what it would cost.

Under the franchise tag, Jones would receive about $15 million for the coming season.

Acquired in a trade with New England a year ago, Jones had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 tackles for loss last season

Jones has 25 1-2 sacks over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL over that span.

The Cardinals' move came two days before the NFL deadline for making franchise designations.

It also came on Jones' 27th birthday, prompting teammate David Johnson to tweet "Happy BDay to `The Man,' `Mr. Franchise' himself.....The one and only."

The franchise tag move came as no surprise.

Club President Michael Bidwill has stated all along that Jones would not be going anywhere, that the team didn't make the trade - sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick to New England - to keep him just for one season.

"We're not going to mess around with that," Bidwill said in a recent interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He's a great pass rusher, but if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him, and his people know that."

Jones immediately upgraded what had been an average Cardinals pass rush at best. His fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden had 12 1-2 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Together they form one of the better outside pass rush combinations in the NFL.

By all accounts, the contract talks with Jones have been cordial and Jones has said he wants to stay in Arizona.

"I love it here," he said near the end of last season. "I love the vibe that the people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time."

Chandler heads a long list of free agents that the Cardinals must either re-sign or let go. That group includes starters defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and inside linebacker Kevin Minter.