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."