Where do you go from Pittsburgh?


Where do you go from Pittsburgh?

By Rich Levine

Where do you go from Pittsburgh?

Well, if youre one of the Patriots, you go home to your house in the suburbs or your lavish penthouse in the Back Bay and enjoy a nice day offcourtesy of The Sweatshirt.

You take the day to revel in the fact that the night before, you went on national TV and essentially wiped your you-know-what with a stack of Terrible Towels. That you flat out embarrassed the sleazy, trash-talking Steelers in front of their home fans. That youll spend the upcoming week as the toast of the NFL.

The next day, you come back to work and start worrying about Peyton Manning. Hey, Tuesdays the new Monday. Good times.

But what if youre a Patriots fan?

Where do you go? In the aftermath of New Englands ruthless beating of Big Ben and the boys, to what places do you to let your imagination wander?

In the short term, well obviously soak it all in. The mere thought of this game will be like a glorious drug. Sundays was probably the most impressive win the Patriots have had since Brady busted his knee. Why shouldnt you get a little crazy? Why wouldnt you want to? For the next few days, Patriots Nations excitement will be contained about as well as Rob Gronkowski in the red zone.

But eventually, once the glow of Pittsburgh has faded, and the date with Peyton (much safer than a date with Big Ben) looms, that excitement will wear off, and well be faced with reality. Real questions; questions that, not too long ago, seemed too far-fetched to ask.

Im talking long term. Big picture. Im wondering, after Sunday night, how high we should raise our expectations for the 2010 Patriots? Should we start to truly believe that this teamthe same one that supposedly didnt have a defense, or a running game, or enough depth and experience to contendis in fact a major contender?

When the Power Rankings (however stupid they may be) come out this week, and the Pats are either first or second in every case, will we be convinced that they belong?

Can the terms BenJarvis Green Ellis, Kyle Arrington and Super Bowl really co-exist?

On one hand, its dangerous to think that way only nine games into the season, because we know how quickly it can come crashing down.

Remember Cleveland? Of course you do. Youve still got a hole in the wall next to your TV as a reminder. Regardless of all the positives vibes blasting out of Foxboro this morning, we know that it only takes a clunker against the Colts on Sunday or a Thanksgiving disaster in Detroit, to destroy any Super Bowl buzz.

In either case, a loss wont break the Pats season, the same way Sundays win didnt make it, but its fair to say that in either case, a loss would take us down a few pegs. If we buy into this team now; if we decide that Sunday night was real, and not a one-night stand with greatness, then a loss in either of the next two gamesleading up to the Jetswill feel a little stupid.

Well look back on this week and say, Damn, we over reacted. Why do we always over-react!? If the Pats lose to Indy or Detroit, well remember the week after Pittsburgh with the same disdain we now do the week after Cleveland. Well despise the time and energy we wasted stressing and contemplating a misguided opinion, and thats reason enough to just take last nights win with a grain of salt, appreciate it for what it was, and remember that theres so much football left to play.

But on the other hand

Didnt they just look unbelievable?

Isn't there something about the way they playedabout the way that Bradys regained his super human focus, Logan Mankins has so seamlessly re-entered the fray, Chung and McCourty have developed (alongside Mayo and Wilfork) into legitimate defensive weapons, Arringtons now holding his own, the Law Firm's looking more like Antoine Smith, Danny Woodhead's looking like far more than a tiny novelty, or the way that both rookie tight ends have faced serious adversity, and are now better and stronger for itthat makes you want to believe.

Even though its too early to say that the Pats will achieve anything of substance this season, isnt Sundays win a sign that, at the very least, theyre capable of it?

If you can go into Heinz Field, and not only beat the Steelers, but dominate them; dwarf them in every aspect of the gameaside from cheap shotsthen you can win anywhere, against anyone. Your potential is greater than it was before. As the legendary German pop duo Snap! once said, Youve got the power! Actually, Snap said, Ive got the power, but youve got the point.

These last two games were a lesson in the roller coaster ride that is the NFL season.

Last Sunday in Cleveland, we learned of the depths to which this Patriots team can sink.

But last night in Pittsburgh, we were witness to their potential greatnessand it was much higher than most anyone could have imagined.

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

Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl


Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

NFL Siberia can’t be all that bad. The Cleveland Browns have signed Jamie Collins to an extension that keeps him off the free agent market.

The former Patriot, stunningly shipped out of town on Halloween, has agreed to a reported four-year, $50 million deal with $26M in guaranteed money.

As eyebrow-raising as the move was at the time, this is an all’s well that ends well story.

Collins, a reluctant Patriot once it came clear the team wouldn’t to aim a confetti cannon of money at him, gets the desired big-dough deal. He didn’t drape himself in glory with his level of play this year in New England, but his agitation over making $900K this year was understandable.

The Patriots -- who made the deal not knowing exactly how it would work out with Collins’ fleet of replacements (primarily rookie Elandon Roberts and, October acquisition Kyle Van Noy) -- have played better defense since Collins has been gone and are headed to the Super Bowl.

Would they have been better if Collins stayed? The answer to that is a question: Which version of Collins, the irked one or the motivated one?

Collins did nothing to veil his desire for a huge contract, saying at the end of the season he’d stay with the hapless Browns if the money was right. Now that he’s decided the money was right, what kind of Collins will the Browns get? With $26M guaranteed, the Browns have tethered themselves to the 27-year-old Collins for a chunk of his prime. The shorter term is ideal for Collins because -- if he performs to his capability -- he’ll be able to see another lucrative deal before he’s too aged.

The deal will certainly be noticed by Collins’ former teammates, primarily Donta Hightower who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Patriots could franchise Hightower (last year’s tag number was more than $14M) but that’s not going to be ideal for either side. Hightower will want to get the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal and the Patriots may be reluctant to pay that much to a player that’s got an injury history and plays one of the game’s most violent positions.

A lot’s going to happen between now and the time the Patriots have to make their decision. A good deal of it will happen in the next 12 days. If Hightower stealthily saves the Super Bowl as he did in 2014 with his first-down tackle on Marshawn Lynch … how do you put a price on that?