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

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

FOXBORO  -- To think there’d be no further questions about the Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo dynamic when Brady’s four-game suspension ends would be moronic.

Bill Belichick won’t like them. He’s destined to give them the verbal Heisman. But there are aspects to the story which demand further interrogation.

So there’s those questions. And then there’s baiting for the sake of baiting, which is what happened Friday morning.

A reporter asked Belichick, “You said Tom will start when he’s eligible. Can you think of an occasion when you named a Week 5 starter in July?”

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Belichick said.

“What happens if Jimmy plays better?”

“Look, I told you what’s gonna happen,” Belichick answered.

Pressing on, the reporter began, “So there’s no, there’s, there’s . . . ”

At that point, with Belichick reacting like he’d come open a month-old-corpse and muttering, “Jesus Christ," the reporter cut himself off.

I’ve been trying to steer clear of the media ombudsman business. But this stuff makes it hard. The first question was obtuse in the extreme. I don’t even know how that gets formulated.
This is not a Brady-Bledsoe scenario.

You have the best quarterback of his generation who – 17 months ago – took down what was supposed to be one of the great defenses in NFL history in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. A guy who got smashed all over the field in Denver at the age of 38 and still almost pulled out a win last January.

When that guy’s cleared to play, you sprint him onto the field regardless of the circumstances.

“If Jimmy plays better . . . ”? Better than what? Better than 11 touchdowns, no picks, 116-for-160 and 1,547 yards, which is what Brady did in the first four games last season? Better than Brady played in Denver while getting his head caved in every other play?

I understand that sometimes you have to ask the dumb question to get something on the record, but this was not that. This seemed like someone who really thought he was onto something. Was going to paint Belichick into an uncomfortable corner and hang him with his own words.

Sorry, counselor.

Now, you and I can sit on the front stoop and wonder what happens if Garoppolo plays ridiculously well then Brady comes back and spends four weeks playing like he’s never been on a field before and is clearly an impediment to the team’s success.

Won’t happen. But we can talk about it.

Asking Belichick if he’s gonna go with the hot hand when two days prior he told you what he was going to do is asking for a JC response.

Belichick probably figured that stating Brady was the Week 5 starter before he was asked was the best way to defuse idle speculation. “We’ll see . . . ” or “We always do what’s best for the football team . . . ” would have ignited a thousand hours of conversation about the budding quarterback controversy in New England.

Belichick now knows that the speculation and scenario spinning is coming anyway. JC may hear his name muttered a few more times from the podium between now and October.