- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team got a head start on preparations for next Sunday’s AFC divisional-round playoff game against the Texans, but that doesn’t mean the team will be taking any shortcuts.
“We’re going full speed ahead here on Houston,” Belichick said Sunday afternoon on a conference call. “It gives us a little bit of a jump on the situation, so we can spend today and really every day now going forward totally focusing our attention on them. Obviously they had a terrific year and a big win yesterday against Cincinnati. We’re pretty familiar with them because we played them a month ago, but we still have to go through the whole process again.”
Belichick was asked if the Dec. 10 game between the teams (a 42-14 Patriots win) gives New England any type of advantage in preparations.
“No, as we all know, when you play a team twice during the season, the games are totally different. They never go the same way,” he answered. “We’ll be able to certainly look at some of the matchups, individually of guys that faced each other in the game, but as far as plays and calls and things like that matching up, I’m sure they’ll have some new wrinkles and I’m sure we’ll have some too. It will be totally different.”
A few other points from Belichick:
1. Texans tight end Garrett Graham didn’t play in the Dec. 10 game, and Belichick said his availability this time around opens up the possibility that Houston puts three tight ends on the field -- Graham, Owen Daniels and James Casey. That would be a new wrinkle.
2. Asked if the 2010 season in which the Patriots blew out the Jets in the regular season (45-3), then lost to them in the divisional round of the playoffs (28-21) was applicable to this year, Belichick said it was another example of how an earlier-season meeting between teams means little in the playoffs. "I think there is probably a lesson there that the game we play now doesn't have much to do with the game we played before; it's another example of that. We've talked about that many, many times here, before and after the 2010 season. I don't think it's anything that wasn't mentioned until that situation occurred, but it's an example we can point out. We talked about that many times before, how other games don't have anything to do with this game. It stands on its own. That is and always will be case, but it's an example to point out of how little relevance the previous game with the same team really does have."
3. As he did in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 10 game, Belichick had high praise for defensive lineman J.J. Watt. "He's a great player; he's made more big plays than probably anybody has defensively this year in the league," Belichick said, before pointing out the Texans have a lot of other solid defensive players as well. "Watt's a big focal point, no question, on that defense. But you can't ignore the other guys either. They're all part of the problem."
4. Belichick touched on the Texans' offense and how the running game with Arian Foster is a focal point, as it sets up play-action possibilities. "It puts them in a lot of third-and-medium and third-and-short type situations," he said.