FOXBORO -- Nothing was at stake in thePatriots' regular-season finale last year against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots had already clinched the No. 1 overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. So their game against the Dolphins was a glorified scrimmage. And personnel decisions made by Bill Belichick that day indicated that.
Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer was inserted mid-drive early in the second quarter and then replaced again by Tom Brady before halftime. The effort by the coaching staff was to give Hoyer a feel for being subbed in on the fly. Belichick said on Friday there would be no such whimsical exercises in Sunday's season finale against Buffalo. "If this were a game that has literally no bearing on the standings that's one thing," Belichick acknowledgd. "I wouldn't say we're really in that situation this time."Every game's important and there's important things in each game and we'll prepare for this game just like we have the last 15," Belichick added. "That's the best wayI can put it. We'll prepare for this game like every one of the others."In other words, the starters go until the game's secured.