Patriots

Source: Patriots finalizing two-year deal with Alan Branch

Source: Patriots finalizing two-year deal with Alan Branch

Alan Branch has a good thing going in New England. He plays in a system that fits his style perfectly. He has solid relationships with the coaching staff and ownership. He was given a chance at a fresh start in 2014, and he's turned that into two Super Bowl titles and a career year in 2016.

That both the Patriots and Branch want to make sure the 6-foot-6, 350-pounder remains in town comes as no surprise, and it seems like they're on the verge of making sure that happens. 

According our Mike Giardi, Branch is close to finalizing a two-year deal to return to the Patriots.

FREE AGENCY BEGINS

Branch, 32, was considered by Bill Belichick to be the most consistent interior defensive lineman on the team this season. He played more snaps up front for the Patriots defense than any other player and was a force against opposing running games. 

Belichick admitted last season that a player with Branch's frame and athleticism can be hard to find so it makes sense that they would be aggressive in their effort to keep him. 

"Ted Washington had that kind of length and size," Belichick said. "Ted was 6-5, but Alan moves better than Ted . . . did at that point in his career. We're had some other longer guys like Richard [Seymour] or guys like that, but they weren't 350 pounds. 

"There's not too many of them. Gerard Warren was a big guy that ran well. Money was a very athletic player who wasn't quite as long as Branch but moving into that range."

According to NFL Media, Branch's deal is worth "up to $12 million."

First-ever bet at Pittsburgh sportsbook was ... Patriots over Steelers?

First-ever bet at Pittsburgh sportsbook was ... Patriots over Steelers?

If you thought New England Patriots fans were losing faith in their team...

Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh opened the city's first sportsbook Thursday and asked a lifelong Steelers fan named David Eldridge to place its historic first bet.

Eldridge obliged -- by plopping $11,000 on the New England Patriots as 2.5-point favorites over his beloved Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field.

Explain yourself, David.

"Over the last 15 years, I’ve gotten burned too many times,” Eldridge told The Action Network's Darren Rovell. “I just hope it’s not one of the three games a year they show up for."

Eldridge may be making a smart call: Pittsburgh is just 2-6 against the Patriots at home since 2000 and hasn't beaten New England anywhere since 2011 amid a five-game losing streak.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady also has historically dominated the Steelers, who have lost three straight games and are in danger of falling out of the playoffs.

Pittsburgh's struggles apparently convinced Eldridge, a businessman and frequent poker player, to put his chips behind the enemy.

"Put it this way: If I managed my companies the way Mike Tomlin coaches this team, I wouldn’t have $11,000 to put down on this type of bet," Eldridge told Rovell.

Patriots-Steelers is set for 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday, and Eldridge will walk away either an angry, rich man or a happy, poor man.

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Chargers' wild win shakes up AFC playoff picture; No. 1 seed back in play for Pats?

chargers_mike_williams.jpg
AP Photo

Chargers' wild win shakes up AFC playoff picture; No. 1 seed back in play for Pats?

Anthony Lynn's gutsy call to go for two with four seconds left, and Mike Williams' subsequent catch all by his lonesome self, delivered one of the biggest prime-time stunners of the 2018 season, a 29-28 thriller by the Los Angeles Chargers over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. And with it, the AFC playoff picture just got a whole lot more interesting.

With the win, the Chargers became the second AFC team to lock up a playoff spot, joining their rivals they just beat on Thursday Night Football. Whether Philip Rivers and Co. will be playing their first playoff game at home or on the road is another matter, however.

Both the Chargers and Chiefs are tied for the AFC West lead with 11-3 records, but Kansas City holds on to the No. 1 seed in the conference overall based on tiebreaking procedures. The Chiefs and Chargers split the regular-season head-to-head matchups, but Kansas City has a 4-1 record in the division, while LA is 3-2.

Meanwhile, with the Chiefs' loss, theoretically New England is still very much in play for home-field advantage at just a game and half behind KC for the top seed. The Patriots would have to win Sunday against the Steelers, and then their final two games against Buffalo and the New York Jets (a combined 8-18 headed into this weekend) to finish 12-4.

That's certainly a more favorable schedule than the Chargers, who still have to face the Ravens at home, and then a hungry 6-7 Denver at hallowed Mile High. The Chiefs, meanwhile, still have to head to Seattle on Dec. 23 for Sunday Night Football, before finishing with a visit from the Raiders. The Texans, currently the No. 3 seed at 9-4, have a somewhat easier three-game slate in the Jets, the Eagles, and Jaguars.

It's possible 12-4 gets the No. 1 seed in the AFC this season.

Or, in a potentially weird scenario, it's possible the road to Super Bowl LIII ends up going through a 27,000-seat MLS stadium.

Or, in a potentially even weirder twist of fate, a doomsday scenario is still in play where the Steelers drop their final three games, the Ravens two of their final three, and the Browns -- yes, those Browns -- win their final three games to claim the NFC North.

Here's how the AFC playoff picture looks after Thursday night's wild finish:

PLAYOFFS
*1. Chiefs 11-3
2. Patriots 9-4
3. Texans 9-4
4. Steelers 7-5-1
*5. Chargers 11-3
6. Ravens 7-6
*Clinched postseason berth

IN THE HUNT
Colts 7-6
Dolphins 7-6
Titans 7-6
Broncos 6-7
Browns 5-7-1
Bengals 5-8

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