If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts…


…then every day would be Christmas.

New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick if fond of throwing that little gem in sportswriter’s faces when they dare ask him about “possibilities”, and does so with a smile akin to that of the Grinch.

No termites in his smile, mind you, but when it comes to how he approaches an opponent – not to mention a rouge writer who feels a bit uppity on a particular day – his heart is indeed three sizes too small.

Nov 22, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (left) greets team owner Robert Kraft before the game against the New York Jets on Thanksgiving at Metlife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We all know what’s at stake for his Patriots.  Should the Houston Texans or Denver Broncos lose their games this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively, the Patriots would gain a first round bye, provided that New England beats the visiting Miami Dolphins.

CBS threw the Patriots a bone by flexing their game against the Dolphins into the 4:25pm time slot, meaning that the Patriots will know the results of the Texans / Colts game before taking the field.  Also of interest is to see how the Baltimore Ravens fare in their contest against the Bengals in Cincinnati.

As it stands right at this moment, the Texans hold the #1 seed in the AFC at 12-3, a head-to-head tie breaker ahead of the 12-3 Denver Broncos, who hold the two seed – with the Patriots a thorn in each of their sides, forcing both of them to play to win their respective games to hold onto their seedings – because New England at 11-4 still holds head-to-head tie breakers over each, so if either loses and the Patriots win, New England takes over a top 2 seed and have a bye week.

If both happen to lose and the Patriots win, the road to the Super Bowl would again go right through snowy Foxboro.

Possible, but unlikely.

The Ravens present the Patriots the same scenario, in that if Baltimore goes into Cincinnati and somehow manages to beat the Bengals, then New England would have to win to hold onto the #3 seed, or higher.  Fortunately, the Patriots will know how desperate the situation is before they take the field.

So…given the multiple scenarios, will the Patriots play to win regardless of the outcomes of the other games, or will they react accordingly to the results of the early games?

Depends on who you talk to, just don’t ask Belichick.

The wildcard in this entire fiasco is that the Denver Broncos play at the same time as New England.  Thought it is unlikely that the Broncos would fall to the 2-13 Chiefs in Denver, Belichick knows better than to assume anything.

“I’ve been around the league long enough to know that anything can happen.” he said recently when a sportswriter felt a little froggy and brought up the “ifs” and “buts” scenarios…then going on to deliver a monologue worthy of a late night talk show.

“I think that there’s a certain amount of planning and looking ahead that as a head coach you need to do, or organizationally you need to do,” he panned, the grinch-smile curling around his face, “We could be traveling in the playoffs. We have to be looking at where we would stay if we travel somewhere, things like that. You can’t be totally oblivious to possibilities that exist out there, because you don’t know, on something like that, we don’t even know when we’re going to be playing next or who we’re going to be playing next. There’s quite a few possibilities.”

What?  They have to be looking where they would stay?

Normally Belichick would avoid the question altogether, but since the writer had the audacity to bring it up, Belichick thought he’d give him his money’s worth – and said nothing in the process.

The smart money would be on Belichick managing the roster as if it were the 3rd preseason game:  Tell the starters that they have a certain amount of time to get it done, then they’re out of there.  By that time, unless the Chiefs have the game of their season, we should have a pretty good idea of what the Patriots need to do.

The best case scenario would have both Houston and Baltimore losing.  Give the offense the opportunity to build a lead and keep the entire starting tandem game work to keep them sharp, then turn it over to the depth when and if things are under control.

The only question would be if the Texans and Ravens win their games – do you assume that the Broncos will beat the Chiefs and give maximum rest to the starters?

Perhaps the best way to approach all of this is to just assume that you can never guess what Belichick is going to do, so why even bother?

That way you don’t risk the “ifs” and “buts” verbal flogging – because Bill Belichick is going to do what he’s going to do, and have a little fun at the writer’s expense while he’s at it.