FOXBORO, Mass. — The most luxurious part of the Patriots' postseason bye week will happen Saturday and Sunday when they kick back on the couches and watch eight teams beat the crap out of each other for the right to extend their playoff lives.
And the Patriots will definitely be taking advantage of it. They aren't really afforded the opportunity to watch a lot of football during the regular season, especially consecutive games at a time, which can be taken for granted.
But now, they'll watch with a fan's eye and a scout's eye as they check out at least one future opponent.
"I'm a football fan, so I'm definitely watching football as a fan," tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "But at the same time, you're watching your opponents, watching the game to see who you're going to be playing, and I'll see if I can pick up anything while watching the games."
This weekend's schedule kind of works out to the Patriots' favor because they could find out their divisional round opponent by the end of the postseason opener, which features the third-seeded Texans and sixth-seeded Bengals. If the Bengals win, they'll make their reservations for Jan. 14 in Foxboro. But if the Texans win, the Patriots will host the Broncos-Steelers winner.
It also gives the players a chance to check out some of their friends around the league. Jerod Mayo has a pair of roommates from Tennessee playing against one another Sunday — Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers and Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster — and that's fairly common for a number of players, both in New England's locker room and others around the league.
"I wouldn't say I'm rooting for them," Mayo said with a smirk, "but I will be watching them."
But the bottom line is the Patriots can rest up while eight of the best teams in the league take an extra pounding. It's not a direct recipe for postseason success, but it's a heck of a luxury to have this time of year.
"Yeah, it's always kind of cool to watch football games," cornerback Devin McCourty said, "and just be a spectator and a fan."