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They have can’t-miss idea

Patriots are focusing on selves, not playoffs

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / November 24, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden learned a long time ago that watching the standings doesn’t do much for your team’s chances.

In 2007, Bodden and his Cleveland Browns teammates needed to win at Cincinnati in Week 16 to clinch their first playoff berth in five seasons. Instead, the Bengals pulled out a 19-14 victory and the Browns needed help.

Cleveland needed the Colts to beat the Titans in the final game of the regular season, but the Colts, who already clinched a playoff berth, rested most of their starters and the Titans came away with the win.

“I remember in Cleveland we were kind of in the playoff hunt but we had to hope other teams lost because we didn’t take care of our business,’’ Bodden said. “So you just want to take care of your business and not worry about what anybody else is doing. You just continue to win and everything else will take care of itself.’’

If the season ended today, the undefeated Colts would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots would be hunkered with the Bengals and Chargers, who are all 7-3 overall and 5-3 in the AFC.

With six games remaining on the Patriots schedule, the playoff race may be attracting a few viewers, but coach Bill Belichick isn’t one of them. Belichick said his primary concern is preparing for the undefeated Saints Monday night.

“Every week we come in here and there will be a surprise for us, that will happen every week,’’ he said. “One week, we are cheering for one team to win and the next we’ll be cheering for the same team to lose because the standings will change and things will happen.

“Really, I don’t get caught up in that too much. I don’t think our team does. Right now, what we need to focus on is what we’re doing, the team we are playing, New Orleans. I don’t think there is any better team in football than New Orleans. That’s a plate full right there.

“Let everybody else worry about their own problems. We’ve got enough of ours.’’

Last season, the Patriots finished 11-5 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Bodden, who is in his first season with the Patriots after five years in Cleveland and one with the 0-16 Lions, said the Patriots have not forgotten how close they came to making the playoffs last season.

“We have enough veterans on this team that have been around to know we have to take care of business,’’ Bodden said. “Bill [Belichick] from the beginning of the year, he stressed it because last year they were 11-5 and didn’t make the playoffs because of some of the early AFC losses and division losses, so that’s something that he stressed and talked about and everybody has it in the back of their mind and continue to keep that in their mind and not worry about anything else.’’

There are six weeks left in the season, but some teams can clinch playoff berths this week. The Colts can clinch the AFC South title with a victory and a Jacksonville loss and the Saints can clinch the NFC South with a win or a tie coupled with an Atlanta loss.

The Patriots still have a tough stretch of games to get through. Their only road victory came against Tampa Bay - in London. The Patriots are 0-3 on the road otherwise and play four of their last six away from Gillette Stadium.

Bodden said the lesson from the 2007 season remains relevant.

“You can’t depend on other people, you have to take care of your business,’’ he said.

“If you win the games that are important in the AFC and in the other division games you’ll get in no matter what.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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