FOXBORO -- As the Patriots enter their much-deserved first-round bye this weekend, all eyes are on how the defense will use their time to improve for their Divisional round game against either the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Cincinnati Bengals.
"The bye week is great, we earned it," said Patriots safety James Ihedigbo on Thursday. "The first thing you want to do is rest up and do whatever extra stuff you need to do to get your body right and mentally focused. When we find out who were playing, study that much more and spend that extra time. Right now, there are a lot of very, very good teams in the playoffs, otherwise they wouldnt be here. It comes down to the little details and execution thats the difference between wins and losses.
"I dont want to set the bar for our defense at all, our performance will speak for ourselves," he added. "We all know and we put the pressure on ourselves to step our game up. Its playoff football so we know that we have to take our game to another level. You always believe that the preseason is there for guys to get back into the groove of things and then you have the regular season where guys are playing their hearts out but the postseason is a different level of football and you have to turn it up to that notch or otherwise youre going to be home."
If New England has a downfall, entering the playoffs, it's not their offense. But one thing that has been somewhat overlooked is the return of safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes.
Chung missed seven games with a foot injury before returning to make seven tackles in Sunday's win over Buffalo. Spikes missed the same seven games before he also returned to make three tackles on Sunday.
Both are looking forward to using the bye week to their advantage, both physically, and mentally.
"I was fine after the game," said Chung. "Were all good, you know we got these couple days off to whatever pain we might have to take care of those and get rid of those little aches and pains and now its just go time. So, its just good to have that bye week."
"I feel great," said Spikes. "Its just good to be out there running around, make some plays with the guys, its been awhile. Im just focusing to be back on the field . . .There's still some things I've got to just keep on working on. All the smaller things, the fundamental things. I should be fine.
"Me, personally, the bye just gives me time to get in the books and go back and look at games I missed, and just try to critique my game, and make sure I'm on top of it, when it's time to play."