The bye week that being a Top 2 seed affords a team is coveted for many reasons.
It is a chance to get some rest and let some nagging injuries heal…it also is a time that players can work on sharpening their technique.
It is something that players also do on their scheduled bye week during the regular season, but always with an eye to their next opponent – a known quantity that can be somewhat of a distraction, like when being interrupted during meditation or when completely focused on a task: You can get back to it, but not at the same level of consciousness.
So not knowing who their opponent is going to be in two weeks affords a solace that the players try so hard to earn, a chance to improve upon their form, which is already at it’s regular season peak – a chance to take some lessons learned during the season, review some film and work individually with coaches to become truly excellent and focused – and when they learn who their opponent will be in the divisional round, the focus will carry over.
The Patriots will practice on Wednesday and Thursday, working mostly on fundamentals, technique, staying focused before taking a long weekend to be with family and friends, another important aspect of the bye week schedules.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been banged up – hell, broken is more like it – for good chunks of the season, and just when Hernandez was set to return from a brutal ankle injury that had kept him out of action for several weeks, Gronkowski snapped his left forearm and had been out for 5 weeks prior to Sunday’s season ending victory over the Dolphins.
In the season finale, Gronkowski caught two passes, one for a 23 yard touchdown, but looked very tentative in run blocking, clearly trying to keep his braced and wrapped left forearm out of the fray as if keeping a cast out of water – which is understandable, but looked awkward. The two weeks with treatment and rest and a proper amount of practice is key – but not just for those two.
The defense has suffered some debilitating injuries in the past few weeks, so when the Patriots take the field on Jan 13th at 4:30 PM against as as yet unnamed opponent, hopefully the two week break will be enough for starting corners Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib to get over their issues, as well as starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich who, despite first appearances, may be able to return for the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Both Talib and Ninkovich have suffered hip injuries, Talib missing, essentially, the past two games while Ninkovich left Sunday’s game in the second quarter. Dennard has a hammy and some knee issues. If they are able to return for the playoffs, converted safety Devin McCourty can return to the strong safety position, sliding Steve Gregory over to the free where he has shown some ball hawking ability…
…and enough of this for now. Throughout the next two weeks we will publish a series of scouting reports on the New England Patriots and their opponent, when we learn which team that will be – the first of which will be New Years Day, when we take a look at the state of the Patriots Defensive Line.