This is the latest the New England Patriots have ever had their bye week. By this point, they’ve already established their identity and how they want to approach each week.
So, the Patriots will still do some "self-scouting" and try to find areas where they can continue to improve. But the coaches can start looking ahead to their next opponent and get a head start on the Colts.
As for Mac Jones? Your rookie year is a grind, especially from a mental standpoint and especially at the quarterback position. It’s been a long year for him both physically and mentally, so he’s got to find a way get away from football for a few days.
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It might not be in his DNA to do that, but you have to reset yourself, because now you’re setting yourself up for these last four games and the playoffs.
He'll do his self-scouting and have his discussions with Josh McDaniels, but I'm sure Josh and the coaches are saying, "OK, just get away for a few days, recharge your batteries, and let’s get ready for this last push."
That's really what this bye week is about for Mac, because his team is sitting in a great position in the AFC.
The Patriots won't discourage Mac from coming in to watch film, however. They may encourage him to take some time away, since that's something that helps the mental aspect of your game: to refresh your mind and get away from the stresses of the job. It’s not like they’ll lock the doors, though. They’ll say, "Look, if you want to come in and work out and watch film, that’s your prerogative."
When Mac does self-scouting, he might go back and watch plays that weren’t successful. He might watch the interceptions he's had this season and say, “Why did that happen? How can we eliminate that? Was it a mental error? Did I go to the wrong guy? Was it a progression error, or was it a physical error where I just missed the throw?”
You can learn a lot about yourself when you spend time watching film of individual plays. You can also get a better sense of the big picture: "How can our team get better as an offense? Are there things I need to do more definitively at the line of scrimmage? Have certain looks given me problems in identifying protection schemes? Are there certain blitzes that we’ve had problems recognizing or picking up?"
The NFL is a copycat league, and if things have caused you trouble in the past -- particularly in the passing game -- you’re going to see them again. So, he might look at how he can attack that type of defense or have answers to what was causing him problems.
The New England Patriots, more than any team I’ve been around, are a "game plan" team. So, they'll spend a good part of the bye looking at the Colts' defense and constructing a game plan that gives Mac the best looks against that defense.
That approach should work well for Mac, because he's the type of guy who will increase his studies this week. He's going to get ahead and start watching film to understand the Colts so he can have another big game.
You can tell that’s just the nature of who he is. He’s always trying to push himself to be better each week -- to make corrections and to not repeat certain mistakes. So for him, it’s probably just another week in the process of growing as an NFL quarterback.
And for the Patriots, this time off could give them that extra push near the end of the season to finish the year strong.
Editor's Note: Matt Cassel played 14 years in the NFL as a quarterback, including four with the Patriots from 2005 to 2008. He serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Boston, appearing on Pre/Postgame Live, as a guest on Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast every Thursday, and as a columnist each week during the season.