New England also had a bye after its eighth game, a 45-7 win over the St. Louis Rams in London. Afterward, the Patriots won five straight games, starting with a 37-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
But this break is much different.
“After the St. Louis game, we knew we were playing Buffalo so there was a certain element of preparation that we could start on with them, even the next couple games after that,” Belichick said. “Now it’s just a one-game season. We don’t know who our opponent is. We’re doing things that we think will help our football team.”
Like giving them three days off after today’s practice.
“You can’t take a week off,” guard Donald Thomas said. “You have to just keep working, keep preparing, just try to get better each day and put the work in. So, next week, when we know who we’re playing, we can really focus on them.”
Some players will be glued to their televisions for the wild-card games.
“I’ll watch every game this weekend closely,” safety Steve Gregory said.
Others won’t ... or so they say.
“I’ll be hunting,” said running back Stevan Ridley, a native of Mississippi. “I’m going down South.”
All of them will be back by Monday, though, when the identity of their opponent is no longer a mystery.