The Patriots earned a first-round bye and the second overall seed in the AFC on the final day of the 2012 regular season. The question now becomes how to utilize the additional time off, as the team doesn't know which opponent it will host next Sunday in the AFC's Divisional Round of the playoffs.
On Monday, head coach Bill Belichick said his team will spend this week preparing for potential playoff opponents, while also engaging in some self-evaluation.
"I think it will probably be a little bit of a combination of both things," he said. "Where the emphasis will fall is to be determined. That’s something that we’ll talk about as a staff here today to kind of plan for tomorrow and then on Wednesday when the players come back in. I think heading into this weekend, one scenario was that today we would be getting ready for a game this coming Sunday, so we were prepared to do that if that’s what it was. That's not the case now, so we’ll kind of reevaluate where we are and what we feel like would be the most productive things for our team: practice, meetings, or other things we can do, the way we break things up and look at them and so forth.
"And we’ll try to find the ones that we feel like could have the biggest impact or are the most important, or the ones that we can actually have an ability to change at this point and work on them," Belichick continued. "That's something that we’ll have to determine probably today and certainly as part of our schedule tomorrow before the players come back in on Wednesday.
Fortunately for the Patriots, each of their three potential opponents in the Divisional Round is a team they've faced previously this season.
In the case of Baltimore, who the Patriots played back in Week 3, much more new information is available, according to Belichick. Houston, meanwhile, a more recent foe, has played just three games since taking on the Patriots.
Belichick talked about the process of looking ahead and the involvment of the team's scouting staff.
"There’s certainly a lot more information on Baltimore since we played them than there is on, say, Houston since we played them. And Indianapolis would fall somewhere in the middle," Belichick said. "Again, as we talked about last week, we have people in our organization who are always kind of the advance people, whether it’s scouts or coaches that are moving ahead. The coaching staff is always focused on the current opponent or the current situation. Even in training camp, it’s the same thing where we’re working on things in training camp, but we still have people who are advancing our early season opponents and so forth. It’s still kind of the same thing.
"We have people working on those things and at some point they will come into play for the coaching staff and the players, but at some point it will also just be a preparation until we know who we actually are going to be matched up with next week," he added. "So it’s little bit of both there, but definitely Baltimore, of the three teams that we could play next, is the one that we – there’s a lot more information since the time we played them and that definitely needs to be analyzed."