Some NFL teams have the luxury of treating the final week of the regular season as a time to take the foot off the gas. While they've already clinched a playoff spot, the New England Patriots are not one of those teams.
There's still plenty at stake for the Patriots as they prepare for their Week 18 matchup vs. the Miami Dolphins. They still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win, or they could fall to as low as No. 6 with a loss. The AFC East could also be theirs if the Buffalo Bills are upset by the New York Jets.
Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss why New England needs to treat Sunday's game with a playoff mindset in a brand new episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast.
"The more I think about this, the more I think the Patriots probably should treat this season finale not just as a regular-season game, but as one of good import -- great import, even," Curran said. "The reason is I think they need to keep their knives sharp, or actually continue to sharpen them."
Perry gives two reasons the Patriots will want to head into their Week 18 matchup with a must-win mentality.
"Bill Belichick talked about it in his press conference this week where he said 'when we are really on top of things, when we're at our best when we're practicing well, when we're focused, we can be really good.' That's essentially how he put it. When they don't, that's when they've fallen on their faces," Perry said. "We saw it early in that Colts game, early in that Bills game, they just didn't come to play.
"And so, you don't want to risk that against Miami for a few reasons. Number one: Yes, of course you want to stay sharp for the postseason, but there could be seeding stuff at play here. Crazier things have happened than the Jets beating the Bills in the season finale and the Patriots potentially winning the division and getting a home playoff game.
"The other reason you've got to win this Dolphins game is because you really don't want to see the Kansas City Chiefs. And that matchup would be in play -- and pretty strongly in play -- if the Patriots end up losing to Miami and the Chiefs beat the Broncos."
Also discussed in this episode: When is the last time the Patriots beat a "good" team? If the Patriots lose in the playoffs, will it be because they were "not ready?" Should we fear the Chiefs, or are they chokers? Ranking the worst matchups for the Patriots in the playoffs. And Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo on Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers.