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Notebook: McCourty ready for another divisional clash with Buffalo

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As one of the senior leaders on the Patriots, Devin McCourty has seen plenty of football during his decade-plus in New England and after missing the playoffs for his first time in 2020, McCourty is back on the big stage this weekend in a key divisional clash.

Coming off a loss to the Colts, McCourty's experience is a valuable resource as the team looks to get back on track and the veteran knows that the NFL crunch time has arrived.

"I think there's probably 12 or 13 teams in the AFC that are all in the same position, that you need to win if you want to keep your season going," said McCourty on Wednesday afternoon. "Us, along with Buffalo coming here Sunday, both have the same mentality. Obviously, the division's on the line, it's a huge game."

McCourty already got a look at the potent Bills offense a few weeks ago and it only added to the impression that Josh Allen and former Patriots coach Brian Daboll have made on the veteran. With so many ways to torch defenses, they keep their opponents on their toes.

"One of the hard things about this offense with Josh Allen... is they have a lot of offense," said McCourty. "They have so many different ways they can beat you... you don't know how they're going to attack you. They do a great job game-planning on what you do well, how you play defense and trying to attack whatever they think is their best way to win and that's what puts a lot of pressure on the defense."

Despite the Patriots coming off a disappointing loss, the veteran safety didn't see the need to fire up his teammates and get them back on track before the key contest.

"I think it's just important to focus on what's next," said McCourty. "I think to go out and compete in a game that matters is enough for every guy here.

"No ra-ra speeches. To me everything's about energy, bringing your attitude and your performance as a leader, as a guy who's been in the league for a while. If you do that I think guys follow that."

With no reminders needed for what's on the line, McCourty embraced the chance to be playing in a meaningful football game in late December against a worthy divisional opponent.

"It's going to be a battle and I think they were the top dogs last year, we had a heated game [a few weeks ago]," said McCourty. "I truly believe in my 12 years in the league when you play divisional opponent, they don't like you, they want to win. I don't care if their season is going to be over next week and they're not gonna make the playoffs or they're the number one seed in the AFC. It doesn't matter, you don't want to lose to your division opponents. I think it's no different in this game."

Judon wins Ron Hobson Good Guy award

Matthew Judon was presented with the Ron Hobson Good Guy Award by the Patriots' beat writers, following in the most recent steps of Stephon Gilmore (2019) and Cam Newton (2020). Judon has been an excellent addition both on and off the field, providing some of the most entertaining sacks and press conferences of the season.

The award is presented annually by the Patriots press corps to express their appreciation for a player who respectfully fulfills his media obligations with class and professionalism.

"Matt's a good player," said Bill Belichick on Wednesday morning. "He does a lot of things well. He's added a lot to our team and our defense. I think he's shown a good ability to play the run, hold up on the line of scrimmage, rush the passer, pursue, effort, does a good job for us on punt return. All the situations he's on the field for, it's good to have him out there. He's a good player."

Practice & Injury Report

There was good and bad news at the Patriots first practice of the week on Wednesday, as Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Rhamondre Stevenson, Yasir Durant and Harvey Langi were all missing from the initial stretching session and first period. Bourne, Durant and Langi are all currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Stevenson was listed with an illness on the Injury Report and did not land on the COVID list

The good news was that J.J. Taylor returned to practice after his stint on the COVID list and both N'Keal Harry and Ja'Whaun Bentley were present after leaving the Colts game early and not returning.

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