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Another Rematch Made in Heaven

Times Staff Writer

Another weekend brings another rematch for the New England Patriots.

In fact, their game Sunday at Pittsburgh against the Steelers, which will be televised on Channel 2 starting at 1:15 p.m., is a rematch of a rematch.

Last October at Pittsburgh, the Steelers ended the Patriots’ NFL-record 18-game regular-season winning streak.

The Patriots, though, turned the tables in the AFC championship game, also at Pittsburgh, outscoring the Steelers, 41-27.

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“I think that game will be on a lot of people’s minds this week,” Steeler running back Willie Parker said of the January game that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they won their third championship in four seasons.

This time, the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are riding winning streaks. The Steelers’ victory over the Patriots last season was their fifth in succession and they’ve since stretched their run of regular-season success to 16 consecutive games, tying the Miami Dolphins for the second-longest such streak in NFL history. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, is 15-0 as a starter.

The 2-0 Steelers are three-point favorites.

But the Patriots, 27-17 losers to the Carolina Panthers last weekend in a rematch of the 2004 Super Bowl, have not lost consecutive games since December 2002, the NFL’s longest active streak.

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Elsewhere:

Cincinnati at Chicago plus 3, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- After 1-4 starts the last two seasons led to 8-8 finishes, the Bengals are excited after winning their first two games. “It’s right there in front of us,” wide receiver Chad Johnson said. “This year we can do something special.”

Cleveland plus 13 1/2 at Indianapolis, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- The Colts’ 2-0 start is no surprise. What is a surprise: They’re winning with defense -- they’ve given up 10 points in two games -- and a minimal contribution from Peyton Manning, who passed for 122 yards and had a 44.0 passer rating in Sunday’s 10-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tennessee plus 6 1/2 at St. Louis, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- In the teams’ first meeting since the 2000 Super Bowl, won by the Rams, the Titans try to improve on their 45-36 road record under Coach Jeff Fisher, the NFL’s best road mark over the last 10 years.

Jacksonville plus 2 1/2 at N.Y. Jets, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Byron Leftwich, sacked six times in the Jaguars’ loss to the Colts, was listed as questionable after sitting out Wednesday’s practice because of a sore groin but insisted he would play.

Tampa Bay at Green Bay plus 3 1/2 , Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11 -- Only four players have rushed for more yards in their first two NFL games than Buccaneer rookie Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who has run for 276 in 51 carries and is hoping to become the first player to open his career with three consecutive 100-yard games.

Carolina at Miami plus 3, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Dolphin rookie Ronnie Brown, filling in while Ricky Williams serves a four-game suspension, has not fared nearly as well as Carnell Williams, his former Auburn teammate, having rushed for only 92 yards in two games, 35 in 12 carries in Sunday’s 17-7 loss to the Jets.

Atlanta at Buffalo, no line, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Quarterback Michael Vick’s sore left hamstring has improved and he is now listed as probable. In Vick’s four-plus seasons, the Falcons are 24-13-1 when he starts, 9-19 when he doesn’t.

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Oakland plus 8 at Philadelphia, Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2 -- The Eagles try for a home sweep of the Bay Area teams after rolling up a franchise-record 583 yards in Sunday’s 42-3 rout of the San Francisco 49ers.

New Orleans plus 4 at Minnesota, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Daunte Culpepper, playing without Randy Moss for the first time in his pro career, has not yet passed for a touchdown and eight of his passes have been intercepted in the Vikings’ 0-2 start.

Arizona plus 6 1/2 at Seattle, Sunday, 1 p.m. -- Kurt Warner is 40-21 as a starter, a winning percentage he may find difficult to maintain playing for the Cardinals.

Dallas at San Francisco plus 6 1/2 , Sunday, 1 p.m. -- Embarrassingly skinned in the closing minutes Monday night, the Cowboys try to ease the pain behind Drew Bledsoe, who needs 257 yards passing to move into eighth place on the all-time list behind Johnny Unitas and former 49er great Joe Montana.

N.Y. Giants plus 5 1/2 at San Diego, Sunday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN -- Eli Manning, who didn’t want to play for the Chargers, probably would rather not play against them, either, even though the top pick in the 2004 draft leads the NFL’s highest-scoring team as the Giants seek their first 3-0 start since 2000.

Kansas City plus 3 at Denver, Monday, 6 p.m., Channel 7 -- Under Coach Mike Shanahan, the Broncos are 8-3 at home against the Chiefs and 8-3 at home on Monday night.


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