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Setting the scene: Patriots look for playoff berth at Gillette, Stevan Ridley expected to play

12.08.13 at 10:06 am ET
Rob Ninkovich graces the cover of the GAMEDAY magazine as the Patriots host the Browns. (Mike Petraglia/

Rob Ninkovich graces the cover of the GAMEDAY magazine as the Patriots host the Browns. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — Cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-30s are expected for kickoff as the Patriots look to win their 10th game of the season for an 11th straight season.

Winds should not be a factor as there will be a breeze out of the northwest at just three miles an hour.

The heavy winter precipitation headed for New England is expected to hold off until well after the game. The weather should not be a factor as Stevan Ridley is expected to be active after getting benched last Sunday in Houston. Before last week, Ridley had fumbled in each of his last three games. He has four overall, losing all four to the opposition.

The Patriots will clinch their fifth straight AFC East title with a win and a Miami loss in Pittsburgh. They will clinch the playoffs with a win and a loss by Baltimore at home to Minnesota.

The 9-3 Patriots have won the AFC East in each of the last four seasons and nine of the last 10 seasons. They will look to extend Bill Belichick‘s NFL record of at least 10 wins in a season to 11 straight seasons. In 2011, Belichick became the first coach in history with nine straight seasons of double-digit wins.

The Patriots own the NFL’s best December record since 2001 with a 46-6 mark, improving on that with last week’s 34-31 come-from-behind win over Houston. The Patriots are also 22-2 at home in December since Gillette opened in 2002, with the last loss coming against San Francisco last season.

The Patriots are the first team to win more than half their games in 13 straight seasons since free agency began in 1993 and just the third overall since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The 49ers (1983-1998) and Cowboys (1970-1985) share the record at 16 straight.

The 4-8 Browns have one win against a winning team this season, when they beat Cincinnati, 17-6, at home on Sept. 29. Overall, they are 1-3 overall this season against teams with a winning record.

Belichick not only started his head coaching career in Cleveland in 1991 but knows their GM quite well as Michael Lombardi worked with Belichick during their days in Cleveland in the early 90s. Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski is in the same position Belichick was in 1991, in his first year as head coach of the Browns, trying to turn around years of losing.

“I definitely remember what some of my experiences were that year,” Belichick said this week. “But as it relates to the Browns right now, we really can’t be too concerned about that. We have a job to do here. They’re a good football team. They have a lot of good players and they work hard and they’ve improved a lot. I don’t want to get caught up in all that. Obviously I’ve talked about this before, I remember the first game. I remember Jimmy Johnson telling me years later that they didn’t even have a scouting report for us in the first game because they were worried about Washington the next week. They didn’t feel like they could dedicate too much time to us, which was about right. So, you remember a few of those things. But I would say, just looking at the Browns organization, overall, separately, it’s obvious they have a plan. Jimmy Haslam, the owner and [President] Joe Banner and then they’ve implemented [General Manager] Mike [Lombardi] and Chud [Head Coach Rob Chudzinski] to go through with it.

“But they definitely have a plan of what they want to do. They have a lot of young players. They’re young on defense, they have a lot of young offensive linemen that aren’t playing who I’m sure they must like. They have a lot of skill players and a lot of good players on defense period. They’ve put a lot of young players into the kicking game. They obviously have a plan – they way they handled the draft last year and so forth. It’s a team that’s young, they’re talented, they’re getting better and it looks like they definitely have a vision that Jimmy and Joe have a definite vision for where they want the team to go and they’ve had Mike and Rob implement it. They have a very experienced coaching staff. Their strength and conditioning staff has obviously done a good job because they have very few injuries, other than at the quarterback position, they’ve remained remarkably healthy throughout the course of the year and they’re a tough, physical team so it’s not like they don’t bang it around in there. Obviously their strength staff has done a great job there. Those are some of the things that I see with the Browns. But really all that’s sort of not really very much in focus because we’re concentrating on what they do, what their tendencies are, what the matchups are going to be, how we’re going to game plan and so forth. That’s really the target for us right now.”

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