Welker: This is for the No. 1 seed

598244.jpg

Welker: This is for the No. 1 seed

FOXBORO -- Despite having the division clinched and a first-round bye secured, the Patriots enter Sunday's game with Buffalo as a team still motivated to reach their regular-season goals.

With recent Tom Brady injury concerns growing -- outside of the locker room at least -- some would argue there's little to play for on Sunday against a team that's already been eliminated from postseason contention.

After Friday's practice at Gillette Stadium the Patriots made it clear: there won't be any rest for the starters on Sunday -- not even for Brady.

When asked if he expected Brady to play the entire game, wide receiver Wes Welker said, "Absolutely. I mean, this is for the No. 1 seed, fellas. So we're going out there and giving it everything we got for four quarters."

Welker -- and the rest of the team -- remembers that last season the Patriots were the No. 1 seed and had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. He also knows that it didn't guarantee a win, as the Patriots lost to the New York Jets in the Divisional round.

Still, they'd rather have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, than not.

"That's the whole key, trying to get home-field advantage this weekend, and being the number one seed," said Welker on Friday. "So that's definitely something that's on our minds and something that we're playing for. We understand that we've got to come out there and play really well from start to finish . . . It's huge, and being able to know you're going to be at home, no matter what, is a key thing."

"Any time you can play at home -- and we're always tough to play here at home -- it's a great thing for us," said linebacker Jerod Mayo. "That is a goal, and hopefully we can get it done this week."

If the No. 1 seed wasn't motivation enough for the Patriots on Sunday, then payback for a Week 3 loss to the Bills will be.

"We're not trying to get ahead of ourselves or anything," said Welker. "We're just understanding that Buffalo's a good team and they beat us last time we played them. So that's motivation out there as well. We've got plenty of factors coming into this game, and we've got to use them all to try and come away with a victory.

"Anytime you come away from a team that beat us the last time out, Belichick's definitely going to let you know about it," added Welker. "And I think we're already tired of hearing about it, and we pony lost to them one time in a long time. That's enough for us. We need to come away with a victory this Sunday."

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.

Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.

“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”

Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench. 

Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent. 

In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. 

His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve. 

Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston. 

“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”

Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench. 

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out. 

“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”