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Pro Picks: Patriots to repeat December romp

Pro Picks: Patriots to repeat December romp

Bill Belichick insists the rematch of a December game with the Texans will be different.

Not too much different, of course, because he fully expects his Patriots to win the divisional-round playoff game and advance to the AFC title match.

As for another 42-14 outcome, New England's coach is having none of it.

``The plays will match up differently and I'm sure there will be new plays that weren't in that game,'' Belichick said. ``I don't think you can overanalyze that game. We're playing a team, we have our team, they have their team and it's a big picture thing.''

The big picture is that the AFC East champion Patriots (12-4) come off their playoff bye as 9 1/2-point favorites against the AFC South winners. Houston (13-4) beat Cincinnati 19-13 in the wild-card round, not looking particularly overwhelming.

It's pretty simple what the Texans must do at the outset Sunday: stay close. They fell behind so quickly on Dec. 10 that the outcome was decided after one quarter.

``We know that our effort and how we performed last time wouldn't give us a chance against anybody on the road,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``It's about right now refocusing on all the things we have to do to go down there and have a chance to be successful, and I'm sure that's what they're thinking about.''

It won't be as bad as 42-14, but ...

BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 41-14.

Green Bay (plus 3) at San Francisco

The Packers have no fear about going on the road in the postseason. A similar crew to this year's group won three away games two years ago, then beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

And the NFC North champion Packers who the West-winning 49ers face Saturday night have gotten healthier as the playoffs approached. They have a decent running game to go with that deep receiving corps Aaron Rodgers throws to.

But Green Bay has two significant questions:

-Can the spotty offensive line neutralize one of the NFL's most dangerous pass rushes, something it couldn't do in the season opener?

-Can a defense that has been gorged on the ground at times slow down the league's fourth-best rushing attack, led by Frank Gore.

The Niners also have some uncertainties, notably how second-year QB Colin Kaepernick will handle the playoff pressure for the first time. They do have a secondary that matches up well with Green Bay's receivers.

The Pack has been through this before and succeeded. Why not again?

UPSET SPECIAL: PACKERS, 30-27

Baltimore (plus 9 1/2) at Denver

For the Ray Lewis Tribute Tour to keep rolling, the Ravens must beat Peyton Manning and the NFL's hottest team, the AFC West champion Broncos. In the Mile High City.

It's a lot more imposing a task than the AFC North champ Ravens faced at home against the Colts.

``There's probably an element that we'll carry forward because you're always building on what you are,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``Hopefully we take all the things that happened and we take it into that game emotionally and carry it with us. But this is a new game. It's a whole new environment. It's a whole new situation for us. So I think the slate is wiped clean in that sense. This will be a new challenge for us.''

Too big a challenge.

BRONCOS, 27-20

Seattle (plus 3) at Atlanta

Seattle has become the fashionable choice, the outsider that could emulate the Giants of last season, the Packers of the previous year, and so on.

The Falcons, meanwhile, have been stamped by many as the shaky favorite because of an 0-3 postseason record under Mike Smith. There's also the feeling that no team fears going into the Georgia Dome, and with the Seahawks having erased their road woes in the last month or so, they are a formidable foe.

Still, these Falcons are better than the previous three playoff editions, and they have the big, physical and versatile receivers to deal with Seattle's big, physical and versatile secondary.

Like the other NFC game, this will be close.

FALCONS, 22-20

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2012 RECORD:

Against spread: 2-2 (114-126-7). Straight up: 3-1 (162-93-1)

Best Bet: 8-8-2 against spread, 12-6 straight up.

Upset special: 11-7 against spread, 9-9 straight up.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Steelers ink Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on same day

Steelers ink Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on same day

Antonio Brown will remain a Pittsburgh Steeler for a long time. On Monday, the team announced that Antonio Brown signed a contract extension for four years that is worth $68 million. 

The deal makes Brown the highest paid NFL wide receiver and will keep him on the Steelers roster until 2021.

It also included a signing bonus of $19 million according to ESPN. The new deal does not effect the 28-year-old's salary for the 2017 season which is scheduled to be $4.7 million.

In 2014, Brown lead the league with 1,698 yards and receptions with 129. Surpassing both marks in 2015 with 1,834 yards in 136 receptions, the seven-year veteran quickly became regarded as the best wide receiver in the league. He is also a five time Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro three times, including last season.

Teammate Le'Veon Bell will stay with the team at least for one more season. Earlier on Monday, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell which is expected to earn him over $12 million based on last season's numbers.

At 25-years-old, Bell has had a career tattered with injuries since he came into the league in 2013. As a dual-threat player from the backfield and as a receiver, he has averaged over 1,500 yards from scrimmage each year.

Bell is coming off a Pro-Bowl season with 1,884 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in only 12 games. 

RELATED: Adidas to give away an island if prospect breaks record at NFL Combine

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Adidas promises a private island to NFL prospects with one catch

Adidas promises a private island to NFL prospects with one catch

Don’t be alarmed if you see numerous NFL prospects running around the field with cheetah print adidas cleats. No its not for charity or a charitable cause, but rather a chance for the athlete to make some waves before even joining an NFL squad.

Those NFL prospects are vying for a private island.

That’s right. With one tweet, adidas announced the ultimate incentive for any athlete willing to wear their special edition adizero 5-star 40 cleats during the 40-yard dash event at the 2017 NFL Combine.

But, there's one other requirement that makes this private island a distant dream. The prospect must beat Chris Johnson’s 2015 record of 4.24 seconds.

The cleats are designed specifically for this popular event, weighing in at a whopping 4.8 ounces and now can provide soaking up the sun and catching the waves to one lucky prospect.


Adidas will be the kings of the jungle with this fun marketing tactic while one prospect could be crowned the king of the 40-yard dash.