FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady has a rare chance to do what so many football fans do on a chilly weekend: Watch playoff games while curled up on a couch with snow piled outside his door.
And the Patriots quarterback may not even care about the winners or the weather.
“I’ve watched and I haven’t watched” past wild-card games, Brady said. “Sometimes you get really riled up watching the game and then you start cheering for teams to win or lose.”
A week later he’ll have an influence on the outcome — and great interest in whether it rains or snows or the wind blows hard — when New England starts what it hopes will be a postseason run to its sixth Super Bowl in 13 years.
The opponent won’t be known until San Diego’s early afternoon game at Cincinnati today. The Patriots will host a night game Saturday.
Whoever comes to town very well may encounter wintry conditions, maybe even as intense as the single-digit temperatures and double-digit snowfall amounts the Patriots expected going into this past week’s practices.
“You get less than ideal conditions out there and we play in an environment where it’s not 70 degrees and no conditions like you may be in a dome, or you may be somewhere else in warm weather,” Brady said. “We’re out there almost every day, so you just get used to playing in it, and hopefully, by getting used to it, you can develop the mental toughness to deal with it.”
The Patriots dealt with it just fine last Sunday.
With puddles forming during a game-long downpour, they clinched the first-round bye with their 13th straight home win over the Buffalo Bills, 34-20. Splashing up and down the field, LeGarrette Blount rushed for 189 yards and returned two kickoffs for 145 — a franchise-record 334 all-purpose yards.
The next opponent poses a greater challenge. Coach Bill Belichick isn’t predicting who it will be.
“I mean, how can you? Look at last weekend,” he said. “I saw something where Pittsburgh had like a 1 percent chance of being in the playoffs or whatever it was, some ridiculously low number. Yet they were within, however close you want to call it, to being in the playoffs.”
Pittsburgh was eliminated when San Diego beat Kansas City 27-24 in overtime last Sunday. The next day, the NFL announced that officials erred in not penalizing the Chargers for an illegal formation on Ryan Succop’s missed 41-yard field goal attempt for Kansas City with 4 seconds left in regulation.
“The league is so competitive that, look, it isn’t even who has the better team. It’s just who plays better,” Belichick said. “It’s not four out of seven or two out of three. You get one opportunity to do it and whatever team can perform better on that day moves on. Who knows who that’s going to be?”
Three years ago, the Patriots got a bye, then were expected to beat the New York Jets the next weekend. But they lost 28-13 and New York went on to the AFC championship game.
But Belichick is in his 14th season as Patriots coach and that was his only loss in seven divisional-round games after earning a bye. A good sign or irrelevant history?
“We play (next) Saturday night,” Brady said. “The team that plays the best is going to win.”
Besides, 18 of the 53 players on the Patriots active roster have never been in a playoff game. That includes 15 rookies, running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Danny Amendola and linebacker Chris White.
Playoff experience does help, special teams captain Matthew Slater said. And the Patriots reached the AFC championship game last season and the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
“But,” Slater said, “we’re a different team than we were last year or the year before that. We have different players. We’re going to be playing probably different teams than we have in the past, so it’s a clean slate for everyone.”
Whoever the Patriots play will have momentum from already having won a playoff game. So Brady and his teammates won’t take this weekend off, even if they sneak a peek at wild-card games. No time for players to waste when they could be working out and studying how to improve.
“At this point, if you lose, you can’t wake up the next day and go, âOh, we’ve got them, we’ll get them next week,’ ” Brady said. “No. There’s no next week.”