Patriots plan to self-scout during bye week
As vulnerable as they might be, the New England Patriots are back where they were last season -- on top of the
conference as the No. 1 seed in the AFC with home-field advantage
throughout the playoffs.
The Patriots earned the top seed by virtue of
Sunday's 49-21 comeback win over Buffalo, and they will have this
weekend off before hosting a divisional playoff game at Gillette
Stadium on Jan. 14 against either Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Denver --
whichever one ends up as the lowest remaining seed following the
"There isn't too much we can do about that for a
few days, so I think the most important thing is to focus on our team
and what we can do to improve on our end," coach Bill Belichick said.
"Certainly, we're aware of the three potential teams we can play next,
and will definitely do work on them and make sure we're prepared and
get a little bit of a head start there, but the bigger picture for us
right now is just trying to make sure we take advantage of our
opportunities in practice and meetings and the time we have between now
and our next game to do the best things we can do to help ourselves
individually and help our team.
"That obviously covers a lot of ground. We'll try
to prioritize those. If we can get the team 10 percent better than
where we are now, whatever the number is, I think we're helping
The Patriots will treat this week as any other
regular-season bye week, which means there'll be plenty of
self-scouting to do. Of the three teams that could be heading to
Foxboro, the Patriots played two of them on the road, beating Denver
and losing to Pittsburgh.
The Broncos figure to be the best matchup with
quarterback Tim Tebow struggling toward the finish line. After Tebow
completed only six passes in Sunday's loss to Kansas City, the Broncos
won the AFC West by virtue of Oakland's loss to San Diego. The Bengals
are working with a rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, who has had his
share of ups and downs, while veteran Ben Roethlisberger is banged up
Even with the loss to the Steelers this season,
the Patriots have to feel good about their chances of advancing to the
conference championship, but they've been in this position before and
have come up short. Last year, they lost in the divisional playoffs at
home to the Jets; two years ago, the Ravens crushed them at Gillette
Stadium on wild-card weekend. The Patriots haven't won a home playoff
game since beating San Diego in the 2007 AFC title game.
"Obviously, it's a good feeling to have a 13-3
regular season," Belichick said. "There were a lot of ups and downs
along the way, a lot of challenges we had to face. Players did a good
job and performed well enough to achieve that record. It's not easy to
do in this league. We put ourselves in a decent position here, and now
it's really time to end that chapter and move on to the next one.
"There are certainly a lot of things we can do
better and improve on; all those type of things, so that's what we'll
try to do in the coming weeks -- this week and in our game preparations
for next week, whoever that is against. I think we can improve on all
three phases in the game, and as coaches take a look at some of the
things we're doing and try to figure out better ways and improve some
of the things we're doing to be a little more productive."
Back-to-back top seeds is a rare feat
--Sunday's victory over Buffalo gives the Patriots
the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff field for the second consecutive
The Patriots have now earned the No. 1 seed four
times (2003, 2007, 2010, 2011) in the past nine seasons. New England is
the first team since Philadelphia (2002, 2003 and 2004) to have the top
seed in its conference in at least two consecutive years and is the
first AFC team to have the top seed in two consecutive seasons since
Buffalo in 1990 and 1991.
--Tight end Rob Gronkowski finished the season
with 1,327 receiving yards, surpassing Kellen Winslow's record for
receiving yards in a season by a tight end. Winslow had 1,290 yards in
New Orleans's Jimmy Graham also broke Winslow's
old record, finishing the season with 1,310 receiving yards.
--The Patriots will play host to Houston,
Indianapolis, Denver, Arizona and San Francisco next season. New
England will travel to Jacksonville, Tennessee, Baltimore, St. Louis
and Seattle. Those games are in addition to the annual home-and-home
series against AFC East rivals Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets.
--LB Dane Fletcher appears to have passed Gary Guyton on the defensive depth chart. Guyton played a high number of
snaps throughout the year until Fletcher's return Dec. 11 from a thumb
injury, but he did not see the field on defense in three of the last
four regular-season games. Fletcher had missed six games.
--OL Ryan Wendell got the start at left guard over
Donald Thomas in Sunday's finale. Thomas played the previous week when
Logan Mankins got injured, but Wendell could be the right man for the
job going forward.
--CB Sterling Moore played right cornerback in the
second half over Kyle Arrington after the Patriots fell into an early
hole Sunday, and he finished the game with two interceptions.
--S Patrick Chung finally returned to the lineup
Sunday after missing several weeks due to injury, and he wound up
playing every snap in New England's 49-21 win over Buffalo.
--DB Devin McCourty officially started Sunday's
game at cornerback, but he played the majority of the game at safety as
the Patriots continued to juggle their defensive rotation.
Gallery: Patriots 49 - Bills 21
Finishes As Top Passer In NFL History
HOT TOPIC: Patriots
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