On Sunday, we're all Cheeseheads


On Sunday, we're all Cheeseheads

By Rich Levine

If you live in New England, you chose your Super Bowl XLV allegiance long before clicking on this column.

For Patriots fans, the decision was more simple than a Tom Brady sneak over center.

On one hand, youve got the Green Bay Packers, a pretty likable team in all respects. Theyve got the young, upstart QB with a golden arm and record free of rape allegations. Theyve got a little local flavor with BCs BJ Raji. Theyve got Charles Woodson, who despite his involvement in the Snow Bowl, is a player everyone, regardless of NFL affiliation, can respect and support in his quest to finally get that ring. Theyve got inspiring stories like Donald Driver. Theyve got an ardent, never wavering fan base, which hasnt taken home a title since the night Reggie White took Max Lane to school and Desmond Howard killed New Englands dream but enough has happened since then that no one here (outside of maybe Max Lane) still holds any hard feelings.

Most of all the Packers are an organization that stood up to the ruthless, junk-texting tyranny of Brett Favre and is on the verge of being rewarded. Everyone can get behind that. Thats a platform that could stop the madness in Egypt. Thats what the Packers are right now; a team that anyone, even if youre not from around here (or there), can take pride in rooting for.

On the other hand, it doesnt matter.

Because on the other hand, you have the Steelers.

When they played the Jets two weeks ago, New England could find a little solace in Pittsburgh's victory. Anytime they play the Colts, its pretty much the same deal. But short of a scrimmage against the Al-Queda intramural team, youre never going to find a time where Patriots fans are on Pittsburghs side.

Shocking, right?

In other news, Charlie Sheen likes cocaine and porno.

But while the anti-Steelers sentiment is nothing new around these parts, rooting against the Steelers in the Super Bowl on Sunday goes far beyond that.

Its not about just about hoping that Pittsburgh loses, or dreading the sight of an alleged rapistconfirmed creep earning another moment in the sun. This is about more than the Super Schadenfreude that typically goes along with a Big Game appearance by one of New Englands rivals.

Basically, if the Steelers win on Sunday, it will change how this Patriots era is remembered.

Now, obviously its not going to have an effect on we remember it here in New England. Nothing will take away from the three titles. If the Steelers win this game in roughly 48 hours, its not going to be a Back to the Future moment where photos from Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVII and XXXVIII slowly begin to fade out of focus. Youll never look back on Laws interception, Pattens catch, Bradys drive, Vinatieris kicks or any of the other moments from those three games and think, Damn, this just doesnt feel the same.

But it will change New Englands legacy. It will have an effect on how history remembers the Patriots dynasty.

Up until now, and since the moment the Patriots won title No. 3, they have been the only team to do so in the Free Agent era. Belichick (and Pioli) were the masterminds whod beaten an unbeatable system. Brady, the only quarterback since Montana (the closest thing to him!) to have the talent, persistence and pedigree to lead his team to those heights. Its only been them. And Patriots fans have always been able to take pride in that. Its always been one of the calling cards of the teams recent (ish) run.

But if the Steelers win this game on Sunday; if they win their third Super Bowl in six seasons; if Big Ben wins his third before turning 30; if the Steelers show that you dont need Belichicks brain or Bradys magic touch to win three rings in such a short span of time, during such a spastic period in NFL history, then things change a little.

In the big picture, moving forward, from Sunday right up until the asteroid hits, it will always be a little different.

New England would hate that. So on Sunday, amidst snow banks throughout New England, its time to take it up a notch. Other than the AFC title games in 2001 and 2004, theres probably never been a game more worthy to unleash your hatred for the Black and Yellow (Black and Yellow Black and Yellow Black and Yellow).

Thankfully this wont be hard. Hating the Steelers never has been. You can argue, and very easily, that theres been no more bitter Patriot enemy during the BradyBelichick era.

Of course, youve hated the Jets, but until last month, theyd never accomplished anything significant at the Patriots expense. Youve hated the Colts, but thats mostly just because theyre good. Its as much about mutual respect as it is hatred. In fact, take Bill Polian out of the equation, and can you name one Colt whos seriously offended you for reasons beyond making a tackle, grabbing an interception or scoring a touchdown? (OK, you cant count that stretch when Peyton Manning was on 75 percent of all the commercials. That was more a world problem then a New England problem.)

Both the Jets and Colts have given you numerous reasons to wish awful things upon them but no team whether its the constant trash talk, the obsession with Spy Gate and, most of all, that theyre always pretty damn good has been a bigger thorn in New England side than the Steelers.

And with a win on Sunday, that thorn will break the skin of the Patriots Dynasty and bleed it of at least some of its historical significance.

Just another reason to root for the Packers.

Not that you needed one.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."