Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye


Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye

FOXBORO -- So what does Sunday's regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins mean to Bill Belichick?

Somewhere between resting injured players and the Patriot Way lies a more important reward: a first-round playoff bye.

To get that first-round bye, the Patriots will need either a Houston Texans or a Denver Broncos loss on Sunday. But they'll also need to hold up their end of the bargain, with a win over Miami at Gillette Stadium.

When asked about resting players, Belichick expressed what Sunday's game means to him.

"There's nothing that we can do to help ourselves unless we beat Miami," said Belichick before Friday's practice. "There's nothing we can do to help our situation unless we win. So, we have to win for anything to happen positive. That's no guarantee that it will, but that's the first prerequisite, so we're operating under that premise. We've got to go out there and win. If we want things to be better, we have to help ourselves. And we have to win first. That's really what it's all about."

Belichick was then asked about the possibility of showing the rest of the league a little too much, and perhaps tipping off some things that they'll do in the playoffs, in the process.

Once again, Belichick said that he's going to do whatever it takes to win on Sunday, expressing the importance of Sunday's game against the Dolphins.

"I think that definitely would be a consideration if the game didn't mean anything, standings-wise," said Belichick. "Kind of like a preseason game. You're out there playing, but the game really doesn't count in the standings, it counts in your development as a team.

"But I think when you're in a situation like we are, where we need to win to improve, then it's worth winning to improve."

But to improve on what?

The Patriots -- with a 4:25 p.m. kickoff -- have tried to convince the media all week long that they won't be paying any attention to what happens in the Houston Texans' 1 p.m. game against the Indianapolis Colts. It's the "Patriot Way" to focus strictly on their next opponent, and their next opponent only.

But as previously stated, to get that first-round bye, they'll also need some help. If they get that help, they'll also need to help themselves.

Because Sunday's game against the Dolphins means more than just improvement. It means more than just resting players.

Even Belichick couldn't let his "Patriot Way" disguise the fact that it also means a potential first-round bye.

And yes, that is important to him.

"I mean, it's one less game you have to play, so, in this league at this time of year, you know you're playing a good team," said Belichick on what a first-round bye means to him. "So whoever you play, they're going to be good. So having to play one less game, I think there's some advantage to that, definitely."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column

0:41 - The Celtics returned to their winning ways with a 118-103 victory over the Orlando Magic. Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Rob “Hardy” Poole break down the win.

6:58 - Tom Giles and Hardy discuss the Bruins’ four-game winning streak and how the success of Anton Khudobin has helped keep the team afloat.

11:39 - Is the Patriots' Week 12 matchup with the Dolphins a trap game? Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Hardy discuss where Miami ranks among NFL teams and how the Patriots should approach the game.

17:07 - With Black Friday upon us, the Boston Sports Tonight crew discusses what big-ticket item they would choose to buy for any Boston sports team. 


Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

BOSTON – Boston made strengthening their depth at the wing position a priority during the offseason.

Well, that depth will be put to the test with the possibility of at least one and maybe two of their top wing players being out for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

Shortly after Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando on Friday night, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced that Marcus Morris (left knee) would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.


Also, Jaylen Brown will be attending the funeral of his best friend (Trevin Steede) in Georgia on Saturday and isn’t sure if he’ll be back with the team in time for Saturday’s game.

“My intention is to make it back. If I can, I’ll definitely be playing,” Brown said. “But we’ll see.”

The absence of Brown would be a huge blow for the Celtics.

Boston only returned four players from last season’s team, none of whom have improved their overall game as much as Brown did during the offseason.

He came into the season focused on being a lock-down defender.

But Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury was a game-changer for all the Celtics, including Brown.

Not only would Brown be charged with being an elite defender, but Boston now needed the second-year wing player to become more of a scoring threat.

And to Brown’s credit, he has risen to the challenge.

In 20 games (all starts) this season, Brown has averaged 15.9 points per game which is second on the team to Kyrie Irving (22.9). In addition, Brown’s defense has been among the keys to Boston’s 17-3 start which is the best record in the NBA thus far this season.

His defensive rating of 95.0 is fifth among players to appear in at least 10 games this season, and tops among all second-year players. And of the four players ahead of him, two – Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart – are teammates.

But just like the Celtics gave Isaiah Thomas all the time he needed in dealing with the death of his sister right before the playoffs last season, a similar approach has been taken with Brown which he is admittedly appreciative of the organization for doing.

“Brad (Stevens) has been great in this process,” Brown said. “Just somebody to talk to, allowing me to deal with it in the best way our family and their family feels we can deal with it. He’s been great; we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can make it to Indiana; if not, I just have to re-group with my family and I’ll see you guys next game (against Detroit on Monday).”

While there's a chance that Brown will play against Indiana, the same can not be said for Morris who is definitely out.

Morris, who missed the first eight games of the season with left knee soreness, has been on a minutes restriction all season in addition to not being allowed to play in back-to-back games.

Following Friday’s game, Morris said the knee feels good but he understands the need to be cautious.

“It’s frustrating,” said Morris who acknowledged the decision was made by the coaching and medical staff. “I’m a competitor, so I want to be out there.”

He added, “Like I said, at this point I pretty much don’t have control over it when I’m playing. It’s a long season. I just want to be ready for June.”

With Morris out and Brown potentially out as well, the Celtics will be extremely thin and inexperienced at the wing position. Look for Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes to be in the starting lineup if Brown is out along with Morris.

Also, Stevens will likely use Terry Rozier and first-year forward Semi Ojeleye more in addition to increased spot-duty for another rookie, Abdel Nader. On Friday, Rozier had a career-high 23 points while Ojeleye and Nader had seven and three points, respectively.