Nothing is certain about the Patriots’ playoff scenarios. There are so many moving parts to keep track of that it’s difficult for Bill Belichick or anyone down at Gillette Stadium to know who, or even when, they’ll be playing.
That uncertainly shouldn’t impact the players, though, as their sole responsibility is the visiting Miami Dolphins this weekend. Belichick’s attention, though? Well, that’s a different story.
“I think that there’s a certain amount of planning and looking ahead that as a head coach you need to do, or organizationally you need to do,” Belichick said during his weekly conference call on Monday. “We could be traveling in the playoffs. We have to be looking at where we would stay if we travel somewhere, things like that. You can’t be totally oblivious to possibilities that exist out there, because you don’t know, on something like that, we don’t even know when we’re going to be playing next, or who we’re going to be playing next. There’s quite a few possibilities.”
The possibilities may not be endless, but they are aplenty. The Patriots can still finish in any of the top-four spots in the AFC playoff picture. Right now, they sit in the No. 3 seed and chances are that they’ll have to play on wild card weekend. So, Belichick is at least preparing for the Colts and Bengals — the two teams he knows will be playing in the first round.
“If we were to play next week, then we would be playing one of two teams,” Belichick said. “We’ll certainly start working on both of those teams [Indianapolis and Cincinnati] this week so when we find out if that’s the way it goes, who we play, Sunday night, we’ll already have the information ready that we can jump on either Indianapolis or Cincinnati, if that’s the scenario we’re in. We may or may not be in that scenario, but that’s the most immediate one, so that’s where we’ll plan next.”
Belichick’s focus may be on Miami, but his eyes are forced to at least glance forward at the possibilities that lie ahead. As for the players, Belichick was adamant that their sole focus is on fixing issues from last week and preparing for the division-rival Dolphins.
“From the players’ standpoint, they’re kind of week-to-week,” Belichick added. “If we play next week in the wild card weekend, the team that we don’t play, the players will never even really know that we worked on them, because we won’t send them the material to have gone over it or anything like that. The challenge for the coaches and the scouting staff and the organization is to stay ahead of the curve so that when we have the players in here, we give them the immediate and most pertinent information for our next opponent. We do that every single week, we always focus on what we’re doing.”
The Patriots are right to keep their focus on this week, considering they’ll need a win if there’s any hope at securing a first-round bye. Belichick’s job is a little different, though, and if his team is forced to play on opening weekend, then he needs to be sure it’s going to be ready come Monday morning.