There are some impressive winning streaks going on around the NFL right now. Just yesterday, both the Eagles and the Saints extended their streaks to a league-high eight games. The Vikings have also won six in a row in the NFC.
Three teams in the AFC have streaks of four wins or more as well, and two of them are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots, the owners, jointly, of the best record in the AFC, and of the second-best record in the league overall.
Between now and four weeks from yesterday, when they face off, both teams have three games on the docket against teams who have a .500 record or worse, which means that both teams have a reasonable shot of taking a winning streak approaching double digits into the contest.
Since being embarrassed at home by the Jacksonville Jaguars—the other team with a streak of at least four wins in a row—the Steelers have won their past five games, including a convincing 40-17 throttling of the Titans on Thursday that saw them pull away in the second half for their first impressive scoring total of the season.
With the Patriots dominating a hapless Raiders team that couldn’t help but repeatedly and literally drop the ball, New England has now won six consecutive games after falling to 2-2 through the first four weeks of the season.
Needless to say, something has got to give. As I’ve talked about earlier, if either team loses a game between now and then, it is almost assured to come at the hands of a division rival, as the Steelers’ next three games include two division opponents, while all five of New England’s remaining games outside of Pittsburgh are within their division.
It’s worth noting that these were the two streaky teams in the AFC down the stretch last year, as well. Both the Steelers and the Patriots won their final seven games of the regular season entering the playoffs, though Pittsburgh finished with an 11-5 record while New England capped off a 14-2 season.
Both teams have a history of finishing strong. At least when they have to. Most seasons under Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, for example, have finished by going 6-2 or better during the back half of the schedule, and, well, the Patriots usually only lose two to four games all season. They’ve only lost more than four games with Tom Brady three times, winning 12 or more 11 times, all the 11 best records in team history.
There are a lot of parallels between these two franchises over the course of the past decade and a half or so, not the least of which being consistent—or relatively consistent—success. It is no surprise to find them once again seemingly on a path toward deciding the fate of the AFC against one another.