It's been nearly a month since the Patriots played anywhere but Gillette Stadium, but that will change this weekend when the team heads to Chicago to tangle with the 3-2 Bears at Soldier Field.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman is particularly excited about this contest, as it marks his first road game of the season.
"We're going into a hostile environment, a city that loves their football team, a very historic franchise," he told reporters after Friday's practice. "You have a lot of respect for a city like that and a team like this with how they've been playing… But I like being the villain. Everyone needs a bad guy. We'll be the bad guy."
The 32-year-old cropped up on this week's injury report with a heel problem that has limited his participation in practices. However, he sounded like someone planning on suiting up Sunday in Chicago.
"It's feeling pretty good," Edelman declared. "You never know, but it's feeling a day better than yesterday."
Meanwhile, Edelman's pass-catching teammate, Josh Gordon, has been dealing with a hamstring injury since his arrival on the team last month. Today, though, Gordon sounded as if he's reached an important stage in his recovery.
"It feels great to open up again, at full strength, full speed. Starting to do more, be a part of more [in practice], and show what I can do. It's been a process. I'm just trusting the training staff here and the coaches, getting me involved and keeping me safe. It's been a great process so far."
Last night, the Boston Red Sox advanced to yet another World Series, by virtue of a 4-1 victory both on the scoreboard and in their American League Championship Series with the defending MLB champs, the Houston Astros. Boston will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Milwaukee Brewers, who play Game 6 of their NLCS tonight.
In the Patriots' locker room, there was no question about where this team's allegiances lie.
"I'm glad they won, that was pretty cool," QB Tom Brady remarked. "Boston's got it pretty good right now, got a lot of good teams."
Special teams co-captain Matthew Slater, a native of Southern California, grew up a fan of the cross-town rival Los Angeles Angels. Regardless of which National League squad makes it, Slater said, "I'll be supporting the Sox all the way."
The rivalry is even more intense between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, for whom Edelman grew up rooting from the Bay Area suburbs.
"I hate the Dodgers. I HATE the Dodgers," he emphasized. "I'm a San Francisco guy… but I hope they do make it and the Sox pound 'em."
Marcus Cannon's availability for Sunday's game in Chicago looks to be in jeopardy. After suffering a concussion versus the Chiefs last Sunday, the right tackle missed New England's entire week of practice. He was the only Patriot unable to take part at all in any day of practice.
The team will conduct a walkthrough session on Saturday before flying to the Windy City tomorrow afternoon.