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Bill Belichick: Priority during bye week is to find balance between self-scouting and playoff prep

12.29.14 at 12:17 pm ET
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Just because the Patriots have an extra week to prepare for the postseason, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be accomplished. On a conference call with the media Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed some of the logistical aspects that go into the bye week, what sort of priorities the team has over the course of the next few days and how to best prepare for their playoff opener, set for Jan. 10 at Gillette Stadium.

When it comes to closing the book on the 2014 season, the Patriots will seek to find some sort of equilibrium between self-scouting and looking ahead to the postseason — despite the fact that New England isn’t quite sure who it will face in the divisional round.

“In the short run, we’ve got to try to balance the looking at ourselves with looking ahead at what we’€™ll need to do, no matter who we play,” he said. “And then, specifically once we know who we’€™ll play, how we want to play them. I’€™d say that’€™s really the emphasis for us this week, is to figure out certainly a condensed version of self-scouting and self-evaluation; projecting that going forward on a general term and then projecting it specifically once we know who we’€™re playing.”

That means having some members of the staff look forward at potential opponents, while others will look back and do some review on the season.

“Certain members of our staff will be doing the forward preparation,” Belichick said. “But we know where we’€™ll be playing next week. We know the potential for some of the conditions that we’€™ll be playing in. It doesn’€™t matter who we play, but that could be a part of it. Again, just from our standpoint, no matter who we play, there are things that we’€™re going to need to work on and need to do and want to improve on. Again, it’€™s kind of a combination of those two things.

“I don’€™t think we’€™re going to get into a lot of specific game planning,” he added. “But we definitely would want to have the preparation work done, so that when we do find out how things unfold that we can just dive right in and have all the information that we need organized in such a way that we can get to it quickly and start putting together a game plan.”

For many on the roster, this will be their first taste of playoff football. Rookie receiver Brian Tyms joked about the prospect of the postseason on Sunday, saying the only playoff football he played was in Madden. Meanwhile, veterans like Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and Rob Ninkovich will be prepared for another shot at the postseason. Regardless of the experience level, Belichick said Monday that when it comes to the playoffs, everyone should understand the magnitude of the situation.

“We all know, no matter how many times we’ve done it –“ single elimination, you put everything you have into it,” he said. “There’€™s nothing to save it for, nothing to hold back. You compete with all you’ve got. I think that’€™s true for everybody. I don’€™t take it for granted. I’ve seen plenty of times young players go out there and sometimes they step up to the competition better than guys who are more experienced. I’ve seen it the other way too. I don’€™t know that there’€™s any set formula. I think we’€™re all in the same boat. This should be the best we all have.”

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NFL Black Monday roundup: Jim Harbaugh reportedly heading to University of Michigan

12.29.14 at 11:26 am ET
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Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers parted ways Sunday night, and how he's reportedly heading to the University of Michigan. (Don Feria/Getty Images)

Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers parted ways Sunday night, and how he’s reportedly heading to the University of Michigan. (Don Feria/Getty Images)

It’s officially Black Monday in the NFL with a number of coaches and general managers already being let go — less than 24 hours after the regular-season ended.

— It all began Sunday night when Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers mutually parted ways. Harbaugh had one year remaining on his five-year, $25 million contract. He ends his tenure in San Fransisco with a 49-22-1 record, including a Super Bowl appearance in the 2012 season.

In a move that has been talked about for weeks now, it seems almost a certainty that Harbaugh will be the next coach at the University of Michigan. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the school plans to announce the hire on Tuesday.

— The Jets officially fired both head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik on Monday.

Ryan lasted six seasons in New York, going 50-52 (including the postseason). The Jets rallied around him Sunday in their win in South Florida against the Dolphins.

“After extensive thought and reflection about the current state of our football team, this morning I informed Rex Ryan and John Idzik that they will not be returning for the 2015 season,”€ owner Woody Johnson said in a statement. “€œBoth Rex and John made significant contributions to the team, and they have my appreciation and gratitude for their efforts and commitment. Over the years, Rex brought the Jets a bold confidence and a couple of great postseason runs, which all of us will remember.”

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Read More: Jim Harbaugh, John Idzik, Marc Trestman, Mike Smith

Josh McDaniels acknowledges coaching vacancies, but says he’s ‘very happy’ with Patriots

12.29.14 at 11:15 am ET
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Josh McDaniels said Monday he “hasn’t even thought” about the possibility of working somewhere as a head coach next season.

On a conference call with the media on Monday morning, the Patriots offensive coordinator — whose name was linked to a vacancy at the University of Florida earlier this year — said that despite the expected openings that will arise over the next week in the NFL, it’s not even part of his thought process at this point.

“I haven’t even thought about that, to tell you the truth,” McDaniels said. “I know it’s that time of the year, but I also know there’s a procedure in place and those things sort themselves out.

“I’m very happy here,” he added. “I think I have one of the best jobs.”

As of late Monday morning, there are already coaching vacancies with the Niners, Jets, Bears and Falcons. In addition, the Raiders are expected to interview a variety of candidates — including interim coach Tony Sparano — for their head coaching job.

Bill Belichick has had to deal with having coordinators interview for head coaching vacancies during the playoffs in the past, and said if that happened this time around, they would lean on the same protocol they have before.

“We know what the procedures are on all that, how it all has to work and the sequence and how it takes place and what the boundaries are in terms of the teams doing that,” he said. “So, whatever they are, we’ll take them as they come.

“If something does happen, then whichever coach it is, we’ll follow the procedures that are set up for the league to take care of this type of situation. As always, I would talk with the people involved and try to satisfy all the, I would say needs,” he added. “But obviously the number one need for me is our football team, what takes place here. Everything else would have to work around that.”

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Patriots 2015 opponents finalized

12.29.14 at 10:56 am ET
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With the Steelers win over the Bengals Sunday night, the list of 2015 opponents for the Patriots has been finalized. The full schedule won’t be released until the spring, but we do know who New England will be facing at home and on the road next season.



Brian Tyms hopes Madden Football gets him ready for postseason

12.29.14 at 10:54 am ET
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FOXBORO — For Brian Tyms, any playoff experience can help at this point of his career, even if that experience came via the world’s most popular football simulation.

Tyms is entering the brave new world of postseason football. After Sunday’s 17-9 loss to the Bills, in which he was one of the few offensive players who stood out, Tyms was asked if the rhythm he had with Tom Brady might help him going forward.

“I’ve never played in the playoffs before,” Tyms said. “I was in Cleveland last year so I couldn’t tell you. I played in the playoffs on Madden.”

But Tyms acknowledged that rhythm is a big deal, something the Patriots will have to rediscover when they play on Jan. 10 at Gillette Stadium.

“I think rhythm for anybody in any sport is the most powerful thing going into the postseason,” Tyms said. “When everybody is clicking on the same accord and everything is run right and to the right depth and right blocking scheme, the sky is the limit.”

Things are not clicking with Tom Brady right now, as he acknowledged on D&C Monday morning, or the offensive line, two areas that must pick it up going into the postseason. With Rob Gronkowksi and Julian Edelman returning for the playoffs, the rhythm should be there.
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Read More: Brian Tyms, Jimmy Garoppolo, Madden Football, Madden NFL

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We’ve just got to play better’

12.29.14 at 7:08 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning, following Sunday’s 17-9 loss to the Bills, and talked about his approach to the regular-season finale and the playoffs. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady played the first half of Sunday’s meaningless game as the Patriots rested a bunch of players in preparation for the playoffs.

“It was nice to see the other guys get an opportunity to play. They’ve been working hard all season,” Brady told guest hosts Greg Dickerson, Steve DeOssie and Andy Hart. “We really afforded the opportunity to do that based on the previous 15 games. Obviously our playoff position wasn’t going to change, so I thought it was great to see a lot of other guys try to step in and make some plays, and a lot of guys made a lot of good plays. So that was good to see.”

Brady is known for his eagerness to play every snap of every game. His attitude did not change Sunday, even though the offense was missing some key players.

“I was going to play the whole game if he’d let me. I love being out there no matter what,” Brady said. “A lot of guys didn’t play, a lot of guys were dealing with a few nicks. It was good for those guys to get some rest so hopefully they’re at full speed here in two weeks. These things, it all happens pretty quick now. All the records, those are gone. The teams that play the best advance. Hopefully we’re at the best, most healthiest we can possibly be here in two weeks, and then we’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to let it rip and try to go out and have a great day of execution and see where we’re at.

“But I’m excited. I’m excited for this time of year. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

Brady said it never entered his mind to not play at all in Sunday’s game.

“No, it didn’t. No, not at all,” he said. “Look, I love playing football. So the more opportunity I can have to do it, the better it is for me. I love being out there. I wish we would have gone out there and scored touchdowns every time we had the ball, but we just didn’t execute well enough to be able to do that.”

The Patriots have started slow the past couple of games, and Brady said that’s something they’ll look to avoid in the playoffs.

“We’ve just got to play better. I think it’s just everybody executing at a high level. It’s no real magic ingredient or anything like that. I think it’s us players making the plays that it takes to move the ball down the field to score points. We’ve done it at times this year. We’re going to need to do it in obviously this next game. And if we don’t start fast then we’ve got to come from behind and finish strong. Whatever it takes to win these games — special teams, defense, offense — it doesn’t matter. You’ve just got to advance.

“We’re going to try to do the best we can to start fast, we’re going to try to play our best for 60 minutes, and whatever it takes, whatever mental toughness we need to come through to win the game, that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

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With Steelers’ win over Bengals, NFL playoff schedule complete

12.28.14 at 11:57 pm ET
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With Pittsburgh’s win over Cincinnati on Sunday night, the NFL playoff picture has been finalized. Here’s a look at the total postseason schedule:

Saturday, Jan. 3
Cardinals (5) at Panthers (4), 4:35 p.m. (ESPN)
Ravens (6) at Steelers (3), 8:15 p.m. (NBC)

Sunday, Jan. 4
Bengals (5) at Colts (4), 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
Lions (6) at Cowboys (3), 4:40 p.m. (Fox)

Saturday, Jan. 10
Lowest-remaining AFC seed at Patriots (1), 4:35 p.m. (NBC)
Lowest-remaining NFC seed at Seahawks (1), 8:15 p.m. (Fox)

Sunday, Jan. 11
Highest-remaining NFC seed at Green Bay (2), 1:05 p.m. (Fox)
Highest-remaining AFC seed at Denver (2), 4:40 p.m. (Fox)

Sunday, Jan. 18
NFC championship, 3:05 p.m. (Fox)
AFC championship, 6:40 p.m. (CBS)

Sunday, Feb. 1
Super Bowl XLIX, at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona, 6:30 p.m. (NBC)

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