Branch: Monday night doesn't guarantee division

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Branch: Monday night doesn't guarantee division

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Everyone knows what's at stake on Monday night. Both the Patriots and the Jets realize that each team is 9-2, atop the AFC East.

The Patriots, especially, understand the realization that they've already lost once to the Jets this season. So another loss on Monday night would not only give New York a better overall record, but it would give the Jets an advantage in a head-to-head tiebreaker should the teams finish the regular season with the same record.

So home-field advantage in the playoffs is what's at stake. That's what's on the line on Monday night.

Right?

"But what's on the line, though?" asked Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, responding to a reporter's question on Tuesday.

Branch agrees that home-field advantage in the playoffs is one of his team's goals. He just doesn't think it guarantees a Super Bowl. He doesn't even agree that a win on Monday night guarantees the division, with each team having to play four more regular-season games afterwards.

"Right now we're both 9-2," said Branch. "Who's to say what could happen after this game? There'll be four games left. The best thing for us, is to just take what's in front of us now, and try not to look at the next four games . . . There's going to be a lot of stuff at stake after this game, however the outcome turns out.

"With all the pluses that's behind it, the season's still not over," said Branch. "We want to go out and make sure we execute and win this game. That's the goal.

"There's going to be a lot of talk about this game, and who clinches the division. But that's not rightfully true. There's a lot at stake. Yeah, yeah, we want to win this game, but it doesn't mean the season's over or the division is locked up."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: No changes for Pats

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Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: No changes for Pats

Thursday's practice participation report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)

Blount: Belichick has had my back from the beginning

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Blount: Belichick has had my back from the beginning

FOXBORO -- During the week, there are times when Bill Belichick and LeGarrette Blount will walk out to practice together, chatting, laughing, looking like old pals. On Sundays, Belichick will coach Blount like any other player, calling Blount by the same nickname Blount's teammates use for the 250-pound bruiser: "LG." After Thursday's win over the Texans, Blount ran for over 100 yards and two scores and earned special recognition from the head coach.

From the outside looking in, they are the Patriots version of the Odd Couple. One is a Hall of Fame, old-school, buttoned-up disciplinarian. The other is a care-free 29-year-old who spends chunks of his free time on Snapchat and Instagram, often taking pictures of his sneaker collection.  

But with Belichick, Blount's career has taken off. Undrafted in 2010 due in part to off-the-field issues, Blount bounced from the Titans to the Buccaneers, and in Tampa Bay, he found early success. He ran for over 1,000 yards as a rookie and followed that up by starting all 14 games in which he played during his second season. Having fallen out of favor with the coaching staff in 2012, he was traded to New England for return specialist Jeff Demps the following offseason. 

With the Patriots, Blount ran for 772 yards and a career-high seven scores, setting him up to sign a free-agent deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers before the start of the 2014 campaign. It was a turbulent few months for Blount, who was arrested for marijuana possession, served a one-game suspension, and then walked off the field during a game against the Titans, leading to his release. 

Who was there to scoop him up? Belichick, of course.

The Patriots moved quickly to re-sign Blount to a two-year deal, and Blount was very open about how thankful he was that the Patriots offered him another chance. Though it may seem like a head-scratching match, Blount enjoys playing for Belichick and he appreciates Belichick's frankness. There are no promises made, but expectations are laid out, and the onus is on the player to earn his role. At other stops, Blount felt as though he may have been misled. 

Belichick has leaned on Blount over the course of the first three weeks of this season much in the same way Blount leaned on the Patriots organization when he was looking for another chance to play in 2013 and 2014. With Tom Brady suspended, the Patriots have run the football more than any other team in the NFL, and Blount has recorded more carries than any other back in the league, helping them get out to a 3-0 start. 

On Thursday he was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month for posting 298 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and he shed some light on the relationship he shares with his head coach.

"I have a really good relationship with Bill," Blount said. "I love Bill to death. He’s always had my back from the beginning, from the first time I met him. I think he’s probably going to have it forever. We just have a really great relationship. I like everything that he does, I respect him a lot. I think he’s going to go down in history as the best coach to ever coach this game."

And what about having your boss call you by a nickname? 

"Can’t complain if he calls you that," Blount said. "Because what’s LG stand for? Life’s good, right?"

Right now, for both Blount and Belichick, it can't get much better.