FOXBOROUGH – Two early games on Sunday -- Houston vs. Indianapolis, Baltimore vs. Cincinnati -- will have an impact on the Patriots’ playoff seeding.
But Bill Belichick’s message to his players is that the early results will be irrelevant if the Patriots don’t beat Miami later in the day (4:25 p.m. kickoff).
“There’s nothing we can do to help our situation unless we win,” Belichick said during his Friday press conference at Gillette Stadium. “We have to win for anything to happen positive. That’s no guarantee that it will, but that’s the first prerequisite. We are operating under that premise. We’ve got to go out there and win. If we want things to be better, we have to help ourselves. We have to do that first. That’s certainly what it’s all about.”
Depending on Sunday’s results, the Patriots could earn a first-round bye. It would give the Patriots extra time to prepare for their opponent and allow their players to rest on wild card weekend Jan. 5-6.
“It’s one less game you have to play,” Belichick said. “In this league at this time of year, you know you’re playing a good team. Whoever you play, they’re going to be good. Having to play one less game, I think there’s some advantage to that, definitely.”
* Belichick said Rob Gronkowski’s availability for Sunday’s game remains a medical issue. Gronkowski would have to first be cleared by team doctors. Then the coaching staff would conclude whether a final regular-season tuneup for the tight end would serve them best. Gronkowski practiced Wednesday and Thursday.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.