Regular season openers are rife with unknowns. Every team has new players, has shed old players, and has tweaked or overhauled schemes and coaching staffs.
The Patriots are trying to work though the gamut of variables as they prepare to face Buffalo this weekend.
"It's just a question of what you think you need to study and how much time you want to allocate to different aspects of the game plan," Bill Belichick said via conference call. "At some point I'm sure that every team on opening day in the NFL is going to have to be making some kind of adjustment to something new that they haven't seen or some wrinkle the opponents' held back for opening day.
"I mean, that's just opening day."
One of the curveballs Buffalo will employ comes at quarterback. The team's plans got derailed when starter Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion and went on injured reserve. Projected backup E.J. Manuel, April's No. 16 overall draft pick, had already undergone a knee scope August 18 and was unable to finish the preseason. The Bills were forced to call on the undrafted Jeff Tuel; veteran Thad Lewis stuck on the practice squad for insurance.
But Manuel returned to practice Sunday. Will he get the nod against New England? Or will it be Tuel under center? The Patriots will prepare for either possibility, a task compounded by one fact: Both are rookies.
"When both have had a chance to play they've both been productive, but to be honest, there isn't a ton of Buffalo film on either one of them," Belichick admitted. "We saw them play in college and scouted them, but that doesn't really mean as much as what they do in this offense. So there's not a whole lot of film on either guy. We just have to go on what we've got.
"It's true of a lot of rookie players, [that] you watch them on film, but once you see them in person, get on the field with them, sometime they look a little different than they look like on film. I think in this case we'll just go with what we have, but it's not a whole lot."