Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Steelers victory could have Pats in 2011 season opener

In a recent blog post, ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss makes an interesting point regarding the Patriots and the upcoming Super Bowl. Though New England obviously won't be playing in this year's championship game, the outcome could have an effect on the Patriots in 2011.

The Steelers are heading to the big
 game once again, where they are 6-1.
"If the Steelers beat the Packers in the Super Bowl, it puts the Patriots in play to be part of the NFL's season-opening game in 2011," writes Reiss. "In recent years, the defending Super Bowl champion hosts the NFL opener on a Thursday, and the Patriots are scheduled to visit Pittsburgh next season. Pittsburgh also hosts Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, St. Louis and Seattle."

It seems obvious that if the Steelers were to win next Sunday it would be either the Patriots or Ravens traveling to Heinz Field to break in the 2011 season. The Super Bowl winner has hosted the NFL opener every year since 2004 and in that time the defending champion has never lost.

If any team would have a chance to change that, it would be the Patriots against the Steelers. Tom Brady seems to have Pittsburgh's number, boasting a 4-1 record against them when starting under center. It would be compelling to see if New England could break the streak that's held up for seven years.

Playing in the home opener would also give the Pats an advantage heading into week two of the season. The opener is held on a Thursday, which would give the Patriots extra time to prepare for the following week, something that can make Bill Belichick and his staff deadly. Last season, Belichick was 3-0 in the regular season with extra time to prepare (season opener, bye week and the Thanksgiving Thursday game). Since 2002, Belichick is 8-0 in the regular season after a bye.

Granted it's a little early to be talking about the 2011 season opener, especially considering that there's no guarantee there will be one due to a possible lockout. However, just some tid bits for Pats fans to consider when watching this year's contest for the Lombardi Trophy.

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