Cornerback Ellis Hobbs put it best Thursday when he said, "We win, we in."
While it's true that a win in either of the Patriots next two games would secure their fourth consecutive division title, subsequently guaranteeing them a playoff berth, they can also clinch the division if they tie one. The other AFC East clinching scenario involves the Jets losing or tying either of their last two games. Then there's the odd situation where the Pats make the postseason if the Broncos and Bengals tie this weekend.
Any one of these scenarios would be a breath of fresh air to the Patriots this holiday weekend, because it would mean less pressure in their final regular season game against the Titans.
Although the Pats can secure a playoff berth in a number of ways, they're hoping to simplify things and be the masters of their own collective destiny by beating the Jaguars on Sunday.
"This is a big game, no matter how you slice it," said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain on Thursday. "It's kind of like a playoff game. We know a lot's on the line. There's a lot to gain and a lot to lose, so we're taking this game seriously and we're going to try to play our best game."
Banta-Cain is right in saying there's a lot to lose. If the Pats lose this game and the Jets win, the Pats could drop the division title with a loss in the final game provided the Jets and Jaguars go on to win their season finales.
"I think [this game] will be huge both for us and our situation," said defensive end Ty Warren. "I think we just got to continue to do our job and prepare well for them. They have a lot of strengths in their receivers, and their running backs and running game. They've got a good offensive line, and of course, their defense speaks for itself."
The Jaguars are coming off a 24-17 loss to the Titans, but this game certainly isn't a guaranteed win given the fact that the Jaguars are 6-1 at home.
The Pats are 5-1 on the road, and haven't lost a game in their away white jerseys (they wore blue in their lone road loss to Miami). They're trying to stay levelheaded entering this big game, according to linebacker Rosevelt Colvin.
"I think we try to approach each and every game the same," he said. "If you try to look at things differently all the time, then you're going to be up for one game and down for another. I think you've just got to go out there and try to take care of business. Try to put yourself in the best position to win the game, and if you get the opportunity to make a play, then make it."
Faulk "doing better"
Running back Kevin Faulk met with members of the media in the Patriots locker room on Thursday for the first time since scoring two touchdowns in the Pats 40-7 victory over the Texans last weekend. It was only the second multiple-touchdown game of his eight-year career.
He's got a sore knee, was seen limping after the game, and is listed as "Questionable" against the Jaguars this week.
"Right now, I'm doing better. Each day I'm getting better to get myself back on the field and go out there and play," he said.
With Patrick Pass now on injured reserve and Laurence Maroney still listed as "Questionable" with torn rib cartilage, Faulk was asked if running back depth is a concern for the Patriots this week.
"That was like that last week," he said, referring to the fact that Maroney didn't play against the Texans and Pass was already on IR. "I look at it the same way. We've all got jobs to do. If a guy goes down, another guy has to step up. That's the way we look at it. That's the way the running backs thought about the last two weeks [while] we've been short numbered."
As for his outstanding play in the Texans game, Faulk humbly gave the credit to his teammates.
"Just credit to the guys that I play with: the offensive line, the receivers, the fullback," he said. "Just blocking and play calling, that's all I can credit it to, because without their work, it wouldn't happen."
Faulk practiced with the team for the second day in a row Thursday, though he was wearing sweats while the media was allowed at practice. The other players were in full pads.
Notes: The Patriots held practice at one of their upper practice fields today, wearing full pads in anticipation of the physical Jaguars. The only players not seen during the portion of practice available to the media were Vince Wilfork and Benjamin Watson. … In the locker room, "Christmas presents" were being handed out when the media was allowed in, with each player getting an identical cardboard box from the NFL Players Association. Linebacker Mike Vrabel did his best to convince everyone that they were getting "Playstation 3" game consoles, but alas – they were just little first aid kits the players were calling "safety kits for the Jags."