Bill Belichick opened his regular Friday news conference with some un-Belichick comments.
“Good morning. How are we looking today? Get everything that you asked Santa for,” the New England Patriots coach asked the gathered media.
Asked, “How about you,” Belichick said, “Yeah, no complaints. No complaints.”
But Belichick and his team need one more holiday gift to truly complete the season: get through Sunday’s meaningless game against the Buffalo Bills without anyone getting hurt.
Having clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, the Patriots (12-3 with 10 wins in their last 11 games), get to rest their bumps and bruises during a bye week after Sunday. This team is relatively healthy, at least in terms of heading into the 17th week of the regular season, and would love to keep it that way.
Now, as far as how many starters will play, Belichick said earlier this week, “We’ll do what’s best for the New England Patriots.” But don’t count on seeing Tom Brady or any of the other main guys for too long — even though another win would allow the Pats to add to some impressive stats.
A win would give them 13 for a regular season that started out 2-2, the second loss a Monday night drubbing at Kansas City that had people wondering about this team. A win would also be their 14th straight at home against Buffalo, and the 22nd in the last 23 games overall against the Bills, who secured missing the playoffs for the 15th straight season by losing to Oakland last week.
Brady could score his 13th win in as many home tries against the Bills, and go to 24-2 overall against Buffalo. The Patriots have won 35 straight home games against AFC teams, the longest streak against a conference in NFL history. They have also won 16 straight regular-season home games, and captured 17 in a row at home against the AFC East. New England can equal the NFL record for intradivision wins with a victory.
And, since 2009, the Pats are 20-3 in the last four games of the regular season.
The defense comes into this game not having allowed a second-half touchdown in the last five games.
All nifty streaks. None of them matter if someone important gets hurt.
“Right now, I think it’s good that our focus be on Buffalo,” said safety Devin McCourty. “We realize this is a game we’re playing and we want to go out there and win.”
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich said Friday: “For me, I enjoy it. Division game. Buffalo always plays us tough. They’re a good football team. They’ve got weapons everywhere: running back, tight end, quarterback, receiver. They have a lot of good football players on that team.
“It’s going to be another challenge for us and it’s another football game in the NFL. That’s what I’m here to do, play football, and I’m excited to play Buffalo.”
NOTES: RB Jonas Gray (ankle) and CB Alfonzo Denard (hamstring) were ruled out.