A gift from Big Ben

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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

Bruins blast Kings 4-1, continue strong start for Cassidy

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Bruins blast Kings 4-1, continue strong start for Cassidy

LOS ANGELES - Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak scored their 26th goals of the season, and the Boston Bruins improved to 5-1-0 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy with a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

Anton Khudobin made 27 saves in his second start since Christmas for the Bruins, who nursed an early lead to their first win in Los Angeles since March 24, 2012.

Pastrnak punctuated a strong all-around game with his seventh power-play goal of the season early in the second period. Dominic Moore ended his 26-game goal drought with an empty-net score, and David Krejci added another empty-netter with 7.2 seconds left.

Kevin Gravel scored his first NHL goal and Peter Budaj stopped 21 shots for the Kings, who have lost six of eight.

Paul George on trade talks: 'Thought I’d be in the loop a little more'

Paul George on trade talks: 'Thought I’d be in the loop a little more'

After a lot of speculation ahead of the trade deadline, Paul George is still a member of the Indiana Pacers.

Meeting with the media at Thursday's practice, George addressed the rumors, but sounded a bit frustrated about not being “in the loop” in regards to trade talks. 

“I was kind of on the ropes just like you guys were on what was about to happen,” George told reporters, per Clark Wade of the Indianapolis Star. “It’s kind of a dark moment, a lot of uncertainty. That was the frustrating part. You want me to be your guy here, thought I’d be in the loop a little more.”

The Celtics were one of the teams who were reportedly interested in George, but on the CSN Trade Deadline Special, Chris Mannix said the C's “weren’t really close” to landing the All-Star.

George, 26, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season.