The Patriots returned to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday for two days of work to lay the foundations for the team's impending postseason action. The team will use the two days to begin preparations for its three potential playoff opponents, Tennessee, Baltimore and Denver, before taking another four days off from Thursday through Sunday that come thanks to the groups 14-2 record, number-one AFC playoff seeding and first round bye.
"We are back to work here on, obviously it could be three opponents," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said at his morning press conference. "It starts with Denver. If Denver wins then we play Denver. If Denver doesn't win then we play the winner of the Baltimore/Tennessee game. I know everybody knows that, but that's just the way we have to look at it. So we'll do a little bit of work on all three of those teams. We know that whoever we face at this point in the season is a good football team. They are good in lot of different areas and to reach this point they've obviously won a lot of games and played well in a lot of different situations. We totally respect that. And at the same time there are still a number of things that we want to try to continue to work on, things that have gotten less attention in previous weeks for whatever the reasons or circumstances, things that we want to improve our execution and timing on. So it will be a combination of just trying to move forward ourselves progressively and at the same time look at what some other people are doing that we could potentially be in competition with and try to begin our preparations on those, although obviously the final preparations and obviously the real meat of it won't come until Sunday night when we know for sure who our opponent is going to be."
And while the Patriots beat both the Titans and Broncos earlier this season, but did not face the Ravens, Belichick said there was not much of an advantage in preparing for the two slightly more familiar foes.
"It's been a while," Belichick said. "We'll have to go back. Once you play a team like that that you don't play again, unlike division teams, after you play them you kind of put them out of your mind and move on to the other teams that you face. There has been a lot of football played since we played both Denver and Tennessee.
"There were a lot of changes. Some of the players that we had in those games are playing now and weren't playing then and vice versa. So there is some carry over and there are certainly changes."
Despite the unknown status of the New England's next opponent, don't expect the preparation process of the team to change or be affected by the bye week time off. Those in the locker room at Gillette Stadium know now more than ever the importance that comes with the next game they will play and are confident in the work that has gotten them this far.
"It's a bye week," left tackle Matt Light said. "It's a chance for us to catch up on some things and to work out some kinks and maybe rest our bodies a little bit. So we are just going to enjoy this. This team, we know how to take care of the bye week. We know how to do it right.
"It comes down to what we do in this stadium and how we play and how well we prepare. We've been approaching every week the same for a long time now. I don't see a need to change and I don't think anything is going to throw us off."
Tom Brady has been named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Patriots 31-0 win over Bills. Brady completed 21-of-32 passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions for a personal season-best 122.9 passer rating. … Before the start of playoff action the Patriots are slotted to select 32nd in April's draft. The New England pick could rise as high as 30th if the team fails to reach the Super Bowl. … Because they won't be playing this weekend the Patriots are not required to issue an injury report this week. Starters Brady, Damien Woody and Mike Vrabel all left last week's game with various injuries, but none appear to be serious. "No injuries to report," Belichick said. "I think everybody at this time of year is about as good as can be expected." … The league officially announced that the Patriots first playoff game will be Saturday, January 10th at 8:15 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. Now, only the opponent remains a question.