FOXBORO, Mass. — While Patriots running back Fred Taylor was getting treatment before Friday morning's practice, he had a good conversation with some of the team's most tenured members of the medical staff.
For as long as head coach Bill Belichick has been in New England, they told Taylor, the Patriots' mentality has stayed steady and consistent, from the first day of training camp until the last game of the season, from Monday to Sunday.
Taylor, and everyone polled in the Patriots' locker room, said Belichick hadn?t mentioned a word this week about their potential to wrap up the AFC East championship Sunday against the Packers. They've stayed even-keeled throughout the week, focusing on Green Bay and nothing else, and that's the message Taylor tried to convey from his locker.
"First game seems no different from this game, and that?s as honest as I can possibly be. That?s what you'll get out of coach Belichick. It's so steady," Taylor said. "It's always the same. It doesn?t affect us, to answer your question. It won't affect our preparation."
The Jets visit the Steelers on Sunday afternoon, and if the Jets lose or tie, the Patriots can wrap up the division title and a first-round bye if they beat the Packers (but not home-field advantage just yet).
If the Jets beat the Steelers, the Patriots will still control their playoff destiny, but they won't be able to lock up anything this week. With two wins in the final three weeks of the regular season, among other scenarios, the Patriots will snag home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"It's not something I guess I really thought about," Patriots running back Danny Woodhead said. "More so, I really thought about getting ready for the Packers, and if [the AFC East title] is how it ends up, then great. But we're just focused on the Packers, and that?s the No. 1 thing."
By the time the Patriots take the field Sunday for their team stretch, the Steelers-Jets result will be in the books, and the Pats will know whether or not the stakes are a little greater against the Packers. But in the same token, nothing will matter if they don?t beat the Packers.
That's why, when Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was approached about the possibility to take the division, he said point-blank, "We don't talk about it at all," and walked away.
"We can't even look at that," Taylor said. "That?s forbidden. It's all about Green Bay, 100 percent Green Bay."