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BOSTON (CBS) - With a 4:25pm start against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the Patriots will have the benefit of at least having an idea of their playoff picture come game time.
But that doesn’t mean the postseason will be their focus in the hours leading up to kickoff.
The Texans and Colts play at 1pm, and with a Texans loss the Patriots can move into one of the top two spots in the AFC and secure a first-round bye for the playoffs with a win. While that game will likely be on in the locker room, the Patriots will have their sights set on the Dolphins — not the scoreboard.
“Not at all. Our goal is to win, plain and simple,” said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “We can’t control anything else. We won’t be watching other games; we have a game to play ourselves. Our main goal is to win and everything else will work itself out.”
“I think the biggest thing is we have to go out and play well on Sunday and we have to win,” said corner Devin McCourty. “No matter what happens in any situation, we have to win. That’s what were focused on right now; going out and playing well and getting the win.”
Should the Texans win, the Patriots can still secure a bye with a win and a Broncos loss. But with Denver playing the 2-13 Chiefs — also at 4:25pm — chances are their only shot at a week off will be from the earlier game. So again, the score will be posted around Gillette Stadium, but the Pats will be focused on the Dolphins and not the Broncos.
And for good reason. Despite being among the best teams in the NFL, the Patriots still have a few wrinkles to iron out leading up to the postseason. They have struggled in their last two games, losing a near-comeback against the 49ers and then pulling off a close win against the 2-13 Jaguars. In both games, the Patriots struggled to start and found themselves in early holes they had to dig themselves out of. So this weekend, in addition to eyeing their 12th win of the season, they want to fix their mistakes as they get set to make another run for the Super Bowl.
“We have to do a better job starting games,” said Wilfork. “We showed we can play with anybody, we can play for 60 minutes, but there is so much up and down. Part of that is starting; we have to do a better job starting fast. That is going to be the model from here on, starting fast and finishing strong.”
With the Dolphins, the Patriots face off against a familiar division foe. They gave the Pats a game earlier this month in Miami, and New England is expecting the same despite the Dolphins knowing their season will be over come early Sunday evening.
“They’re not going to lie down. They know us and we know them. I’m sure they have a few new wrinkles,” said Wilfork. “It’s a big challenge for us this week, but Bill (Belichick) has been pushing the envelope for us this week. He’s been demanding we play better, execute better. I think every man in this locker room has been pushing each other to make sure we go out and finish strong.”
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Tune in to Patriots-Dolphins Sunday afternoon at 4:25pm on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV. Pregame coverage begins on the Hub at 1pm with Patriots Preview, with three hours of post game coverage following the game. WBZ-TV’s coverage kicks off at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay, with Patriots 5th Quarter after the game on myTV38.