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It's been easy to mistake the New England Patriots for a different football team the last two weeks. Hell, you could even stretch that all the way back to Week 11.

With these last two games on the road against divisional opponents, the Patriots played two of the sloppiest, timid, ultra-conservative, are-they-actually-trying-to-lose-these-games games in franchise history, even with the No. 1 seed and home field advantage within their grasp.

The Patriots kept things simple. They didn't send Rob Gronkowski over the middle between the numbers. Danny Amendola caught three balls on six total targets. They lined up and ran the ball what felt like a million times, while the times Tom Brady did drop back to pass, the porous and broken offensive line always seemed to leak a huge hit through on the QB.

But, they didn't throw these games away just because. Head coach Bill Belichick knows he's missing some key pieces on both sides of the ball, including the players such as Gronk and Dola who are playing through injuries of their own.  In Belichick's view, putting those players at risk in Weeks 16 and 17 when they already have a bye week to come wasn't worth it in. He played it (mostly) safe.

Brady, who took an absolute beating yesterday in Miami, is confident that the two weeks of rest and preparation to come will see the Patriots right the ship and get back to a level of play that we know this team is capable of.

Brady told WEEI this morning:
I don’t think there are any sort of simple solutions this time of the year...We’ve played a lot of football, and there have been a lot of things that happened over the course of the year, and we’re going to need to put together our best effort in two weeks. I think that’s what it comes down to. We’re not the team we played in the opening week and we’re not the team we were in Week 8. We’re the team we are in Week 17. We’ll be a different team in two weeks than we are from (today) based on how we practice and the guys who go out there and play. Does that mean things will be perfect? Absolutely not. We’re going to have to go out there and work hard to achieve our goal.

A lot of New England's hopes rest on the health of Julian Edelman, who's been out of action since he left the Week 10 game against the Giants with a broken foot. The offense needs Edelman to come back at 100% and do his thing out of the slot to give opposing defenses a reason to fear the passing attack. Edelman is the integral cog that makes the whole operation click, and without him it's been extremely difficult to gain yards, stay on the field and score points.

Hopefully, come January 16, Edelman, as well as the rest of the walking wounded, will be ready to go. 

Mark Burke 1/04/2016 01:40:00 PM Edit
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