Bill Belichick’s Tuesday morning news conference commenced with a statement on his team’s Week 17 opponent, the Buffalo Bills.
“We’re rolling through the division here,” Belichick said. “It’s interesting looking at Buffalo. They’re obviously a good football team. Very tough, tough-minded team.”
The New England Patriots head coach’s opening address spanned nearly three minutes. There was no mention of the game between the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, nor was there a mention of the fact his team clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as a result.
But those topics did eventually arrive in the discussion.
“I mean it doesn’t – I don’t think it really has a big effect on what we’ve been doing,” Belichick said of the assembled playoff picture. “Just keep getting ready for Buffalo, that’s what our challenge is. Whatever our position is, it is. But that will all take care of itself in due course. It doesn’t have anything to do with right now.”
The 12-3 Patriots are now preparing for Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff against the 8-7 Bills at Gillette Stadium, a game that would have been flexed to 4:25 if the Broncos defeated the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. But instead, the Cincinnati gave itself a chance to take the No. 2 seed in the conference with a 37-28 win over Denver to close Week 16.
In turn, there will be no playoff implications for New England to close the regular season in Week 17.
Buffalo was eliminated from contention with a 26-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
With little to gain in a divisional game of little significance, the Patriots may elect to rest the likes of quarterback Tom Brady, running back LeGarrette, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and cornerback Darrelle Revis versus the Bills. And with the likes of running back LeGarrette Blount, wideout Julian Edelman, defensive end Chandler Jones, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Kyle Arrington all working back from their respective ailments, other key contributors follow suit.
But Belichick kept those management plans in-house on Tuesday, much like he kept the focus on the Bills.
“We’ll do the same thing we always do, so it won’t be any different this week than it’s been any other week,” Belichick said. “It won’t be any different this year than it’s been any other year. We’ll do what we feel is best for our football team. Period.”