The math is very simple for the Patriots: beat Buffalo, get the number-one seed in the AFC playoffs.
Forget about the win streak over the Bills, which dates back to a 31-0 shutout in the 2003 season. The focus of the Patriots this week is all about sewing up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"It's a division game, first and foremost" said linebacker Jerod Mayo, "so we know the magnitude of the game. We need it. We're fighting for home-field advantage for a bye week. We're preparing hard this week, and hopefully we'll go out and play well."
"Well, hey, look here, we'll do our job in practice and hopefully that will roll over into the game," wide receiver Deion Branchtold Buffalo reporters via conference call. "All streaks have to come to an end at some point. The biggest thing is hopefully it's not this week."
"I think every team wants to control their own fate. That's what we talk about and now we've put ourselves in this position. That's a good thing," added tight end and co-captain Alge Crumpler. "So, I mean, getting this win would be great."
It might not be so easy, however. The Bills, under first-year coach Chan Gailey, don't have a winning record, but have played several tough, close game throughout the season and have played perhaps their best football of late.
"Really been impressed watching Buffalo here the last few days," head coach Bill Belichickremarked. "The last six weeks after the bye week, after that 0-8 start, they've really played well and won four of the last six. They lost a tough one to Pittsburgh that they probably deserved to win, but we all know how that goes.
"[They're] just playing solid in all three phases of the game: good on special teams, good specialists, good returners – really a solid core group of coverage players."
"We're not looking past Buffalo," nose tackle and co-captain Vince Wilforkasserted.
"We want to just start with a great practice today and just finish. Whatever happens after the game happens, but hopefully we have the 'W.' That's how we've been taking it; we take it one game at a time and one practice at a time and we're going to continue to do that until everything is said and done. And after that, we'll see where we're at, but right now it's all about Buffalo."
"[QB Ryan] Fitzpatrick just looks real comfortable in the pocket," Mayo pointed out. "Well, he can do it all. Pretty much like last week, you've got a guy like [Green Bay's] Matt Flynnwho can roll out and make all the throws, same type of quarterback."
Defensively, no Bill is playing better than nose tackle Kyle Williams, according to the Patriots.
"He's a beast. He's just handling guys and playing exceptionally well," Crumpler continued. "Those guys are just buying into their program. It took them a little while but they're playing very well … They're a much better team. They gave us problems the first time that we played them. Since [their] bye week, they're 4-2. They could easily be 5-1 with the Pittsburgh game, so they're playing very well.
"For us, it's a game that we really need to win, so we'll prepare accordingly."
Props for Connolly
After being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, guard Dan Connollycame up during a media conference call with Gailey.
"We're going to kick away from [him]," Gailey joked.
To which, when told about the line, Belichick quipped, "Yeah, I bet Chan's really worried about that."
New defensive lineman Landon Cohentalked with reporters for a spell, and indicated that while he doesn't have much experience in the 3-4 scheme, he maintains he's ready for it and "excited" about the opportunity to be a Patriot.
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss asked Cohen, a Christian, about the origins of his last name and received this interesting reply.
"It's a Jewish last name and I don't know how I got it. I know my dad's last name is Cohen and it's been that way since I can remember."
Wed12/22 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Wednesday's practice, please visit the PFW Blog.