The Patriots clinched a playoff bye by virtue of their win over the Jets Sunday afternoon. On Monday night, thanks to the Bengals beatdown of Peyton Manning's Broncos, New England secured the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC.
Not only does Bill Belichick's team now have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but New England's season finale this Sunday in Foxborough against the Bills has been rendered virtually meaningless. The game, which could have been flexed to later in the afternoon, will remain at its previously-scheduled 1 p.m. kickoff.
Before turning the page to how the Patriots will handle playing time in the finale, and to the ensuing postseason, the Boston Globe looks back again to New England's hard-fought win over the Jets. Ben Volin broke down the film of the win and wondered, "Did these teams accidentally put on the wrong uniforms before the game?"
In her* Globe* notebook, Shalise Manza Young relays Belichick and Josh McDaniels expressing their displeasure with the Patriots performance on offense against New York.
Over at the* Boston Herald*, the final grades are in for the victory over the Jets and professor Ron Borges makes it clear that things were "far from perfect" in New York. Borges was particularly hard on the offensive line.
Herald Patriots beat writer Jeff Howe says that if the postseason is going to be a success the Patriots "need a better Brady than they've gotten over the past three weeks." Elsewhere, Karen Guregian says that even with the Patriots already holding the No. 1 seed, "most of the starters likely will be in there for a while" on Sunday against the Bills.
The Providence Journal joins the line of those pointing out that New England's high-scoring offense is in a bit of a recent funk, with Tim Britton writing simply that, "The offense has to improve." Britton also declares Dont'a Hightower's fourth-quarter sack in New York as the "biggest defensive play" of the win.
ESPNBoston.com brings attention to Devin McCourty's tweet of an "Air Wilfork" graphic, an homage to the big, athletic defensive tackle's deflection of Nick Folk's potential game-winning field goal on Sunday. Lee Schechter adds his slant in regards to the displeasure from the New England coaches regarding the team's offense in New York, while Mike Reiss takes an early look scouting the Bills.
Mike Petraglia writes from Bill Belichick's Tuesday morning press conference, with the coach using his usual response in regards to players' playing time in the finale: "what's best for our football team, period." Elsewhere on the site, Ryan Hannable quotes Tedy Bruschi from WEEI's Dale & Holley show, with the ex-Patriots linebacker pointing to Seattle as New England's most difficult potential Super Bowl matchup.
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran chimes in on the topic of playing time in the finale, bringing money and incentives into the discussion. Phil Perry notes that early on Belichick is "mum on resting players with No. 1 seed secured."