Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks the sidelines in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
There's nothing for the Patriots to do this weekend except watch and wait. They earned a first-round bye, which means they'll have 13 days between games. It's a good chance to get everyone healthy (like, say, tight end Rob Gronkowski), as well as a few extra days to prepare for their would-be opponents.
A quick refresher: the Pats are the No. 2 seed in the AFC and they'll face the Texans, Ravens or Colts in Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 13. For completeness, wild-card weekend looks like this: No. 3 Houston hosts No. 6 Cincy and No. 4 Baltimore hosts No. 5 Indy.
Earlier this week, coach Bill Belichick admitted that he and the staff will prepare for all three opponents before the game-planning begins in earnest next week.
“No, we’ll work on everybody,” Belichick said via ESPNBoston.com. “After the Houston game, we’ll either be full-speed ahead on Houston or we’ll put that in the drawer and wait and see what happens in the next game. We have to be prepared for all three of them, so that’s what we’ll do.”
For now, the Patriots are trying to treat this like a normal bye week except that they don't know who they'll play and it's a single-elimination tournament.
“Now it’s just a one-game season,” Belichick continued. “We don’t know who our opponent is. We’re doing things that we think will help our football team. Once we know who our opponent is, then we’ll zero in on that opponent and try to do everything we can to get our highest level of performance against them next Sunday.”
Belichick has said in the past that he doesn't like bye weeks because teams (not just his team but others across the league) come out flat. But he expects the Pats to be ready to go when they take the field again.
“Of course, it’s a playoff game,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for. You play all regular season to get into the playoffs. Yeah, I would hope we’re more excited and more amped up to play. It’s a higher level of competition. Not that the regular season isn’t, but the playoffs are higher, there’s no question about that.”