This week does give the Patriots a headstart on preparing for the Miami Dolphins -- their Week 9 opponent who will be at the Meadowlands on Sunday to play the Jets -- but they also get a look at whose performance is most important to them.
That being, the Patriots. No matter what team you're around, "Self-scouting" is the football buzz phrase that gets tossed around during the bye week. And today, Bill Belichick delved into the two areas where that work is focused. They are ...
1) Tendencies: Here is where the Patriots are looking to see their own work through the eyes of the Dolphins or Jets or Bills. In other words, if we can spot some of our own habits, the other team will be able to also, and that has to be addressed.
"Defensively, is it our tendency to blitz in a certain situation? Is it cover-1 or cover-5 in this certain situation? And if weíre seeing that, then our opponents are seeing that," Belichick said. "And again, it might something where we say, ĎThatís where we want to be, weíre OK with that.í Or it also might be, 'Weíre OK, but we really want to balance that off with something else."
This is where Belichick's emphasis on situational play is paramount. Down-and-distance, clock, personnel grouping, formation, pressure package, coverage, route pattern, blocking scheme ... All of it is easily cross-sectioned and digested in today's NFL. So knowing what you're doing is as important as knowing what the opponent's doing, because it can really where other teams will attack you.
"Itís looking at what other people are seeing from you," Belichick said. "I think every good team has tendencies. ... You look at it and say, ĎThere they go again, thereís that same play happening again.í So I donít think those tendencies are necessarily a bad thing, but thereís a point where you want to have balance, and do things that complement them."
2) Production: This can be interpreted as judging players. Or judging play-calling. Or getting a better idea of where you're good and bad as an overall group. And yes, situational football plays into this one, too.
"What plays, how productive are they in certain situations," Belichick said. "If that playís productive on first down, how productive is it on third down? Right side, left side, man coverage, zone coverage, all those things. ... To a certain extent, there may be things you want to build on, there may be things you want to subtract. So if you spend too much time getting out of it, maybe you have to refocus on something thatís more productive."
And then there's assessing that production in context. Which is to say, for example here, that maybe you throw out what happened when you were leading Tennessee 52-0 in the third quarter two weeks ago.
ďYouíve got to be careful," Belichick said. "Yeah, these plays were good, but they obviously didnít really matter one way or the other, offensively or defensively. Some of those plays were kind of throwaway plays. And some of it was a factor of the weather, too.
"I think in some games, some of the plays that happened in that game, put them on a different field and I donít know if they would have turned out the same way. Both ways. Chris Johnsonís long run, I donít know if itís a good field we miss that many tackles."
OK, so how do coaches take all of everything that's happened into account. Coaching software has made it much easier. You can filter through almost anything imaginable efficiently now.
And during the bye week, all that stuff sure gets a workout.