Inside Slant: Patriots Ready for Next Step

The Patriots head into their bye week trying to begin preparation for all three of their possible second-round playoff opponents -- Denver, Tennessee and Baltimore.

The players will be in through Wednesday and then be given a long weekend to rest up for next week's normal game preparation. The staff, meanwhile, is likely to spend more time this week preparing for a Baltimore Ravens team it hasn't seen while spending slightly less time on Denver and Tennessee - two teams the Patriots played during the regular season even though back in the season's first half.

"We have to be prepared for all of them," coach Bill Belichick said. "I think we are familiar with some of the teams and we will work on all of them that we might be playing. We don't want to get caught up being unprepared, especially with the week to work on it."

This week's practices will obviously not be game plan related and while the team might be introduced to some of the principles used by its possible opponents, with no game to play this week, those practices will likely feature additional work on the Patriots' own stuff. That allows for a crisper, faster-paced practice since the players aren't running scout team plays off cards.

"We will look at it like we do with the bye week during the regular season," Belichick said. "We will take an analysis of what we have been doing, particularly recently, and how those trends are developing and make sure we understand what our opponents are seeing from us. We'll also take a look at the things we're doing well and things we're not doing as well and decide whether to fix things or get rid of them and whether we want to put more emphasis on things where we have been more productive.

"There are a lot of things we want to get done, but I think we can get them done at a pace where everybody can be rested and ready to head into next week's regular normal preparation for a game and be prepared and as rested as possible at this time of year."

Belichick and many of his veteran players recently experienced the bye week and its preparation oddities at this time of year since they were the No. 2 seed in 2001 and had the first week off before playing host to the Oakland Raiders.


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