Belichick: Bye week isn't an off week

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Belichick: Bye week isn't an off week

FOXBORO -- The Patriots players are in the shop Wednesday and Thursday this week. Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday? Off.

Opportunity knocks. Lotsa Madden. Lotsa movies. Lotsa whatever it is affluent 20-something young men do in their spare time. In Brandon Spikes' case, that leaves a wide array of activities.

Asked if his players needed reminding that the bye week wasn't an off-week, Belichick bristled at the very idea of it.

"Nobody ever said it was a week off except for you," Belichick said to . . . me. "Thats the first time Ive heard it. Were here, there are things we can accomplish, things that we can do, things that were doing so thats what were here for."

Even though the players don't have to be at the facility en masse over the weekend, Belichick says they're not off the hook.

"Even those days, there are things that . . . individually that we can work on. Well certainly talk to the players about those, too," Belichick pointed out

Belichick wasn't specific when asked what areas needed tweaking before the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

"Weve identified a lot of things in every area -- offense, defense, special teams, running game, passing game, individuals. There are things for all of us that we can do better," he pointed out. "Whatever level theyre at, were trying to make them better."

If the Texans win the early game on Saturday, they're guaranteed to be traveling to New England the following weekend. In that case, the Patriots will begin prep for Houston immediately. However, if the Bengals upset the Texans, Cincinnati will play Denver and the Pats will face the winner of Sunday's Baltimore-Indianapolis game.

"After the Houston game, well either be full speed ahead on Houston or well put that in the drawer and wait and see what happens in the next game," he explained. "We have to be prepared for all three of them so thats what well do.

One of the main reasons the Patriots have a week off is that they addressed how godawful they were against downfield throws. Personnel changes, maturation, scheme changes, all played a role, said Belichick.

"Id like to think we improved. We certainly worked on it," Belichick explained. "We made a couple changes after the Seattle game (a 24-23 loss in Week 6) . . . Not that we didnt work on it before, but we kept working on it more. I think overall the results were better.

"I think its a combination of a lot of things," Belichick added. "I dont think its any one thing, one player, one call, one thing. Defense is team defense. Part of it is coaching and scheme and putting the players in the best chance they have to be successful. Its pass defense, its pass rush, its run defense to create longer yardage situations, its pressure coverage, its a little bit of everything. I think when you look at all the plays in whatever situation you want to look at it, whether its defending long passes, red area, third down, fringe plays, whatever they happen to be, that youll find that ... its not all one guy or one play or one call or one anything. Its a combination of a lot of things. I would say quite a few of them are better than what they were so thats good."

USA TODAY predicts 19-0 season for Patriots

USA TODAY predicts 19-0 season for Patriots

You can add USA TODAY to the Patriots' undefeated season bandwagon.

In its annual projections before NFL teams report to training camps this week, USA TODAY has the Patriots going 16-0 in the regular season, then beating the AFC West's L.A. Chargers and Oakland Raiders in the playoffs before capping a perfect 19-0 season with a Super Bowl 52 victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Minneapolis.

Here's their Pats' regular-season rundown from USA TODAY NFL writer Nate Davis:

New England Patriots (16-0): Is it bold? Sure. Kinda. But it's not like Tom Brady hasn't gone 16-0 before ... (and, really, wouldn't he and Bill Belichick secretly love to add 19-0 to their otherwise incomparable resumes?). And from the FWIW department, Brady went 14-1 last season and appears to be surrounded by an even better cast now, especially if Rob Gronkowski is, in fact, back to 100%. 

Pats wide receiver Julian Edelman called the 19-0 talk "stupid" last week. Bill Belichick is almost guaranteed to dismiss it if and when he's asked about it this week.