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Injuries may change Belichick's Week 17 strategy

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Dec. 29, 2010 @ 5:23 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Each Wednesday throughout the season we'll identify one player, coach or area of the team that is most under the microscope. This week, head coach Bill Belichick is the choice.

With the No. 1 seed in the playoffs wrapped up, no one really needs to "step up" in Sunday's game against Miami. Sure, the Patriots want to win, but if they lose, they still get to play each playoff game at Foxborough.

We put Belichick under the microscope this week because everyone wants to know how he will handle playing time for his starters. It was one year ago when WR Wes Welker tore his ACL and MCL in a meaningless season finale, keeping him out of the playoffs.

When asked if Welker's injury will change how Belichick handles playing his starters, the coach replied, "I think you take into consideration all the information that you have and do the best you can with it. Whatever we have to work with over current (or) previous experiences and so forth — it could be a long list of things — but in the end, you take it all and put it together and do what you feel like is best for everyone."

A very Belichick-type answer.

The Patriots have been bitten badly by the injury bug this season with four starters and three top reserves on injured reserve. They are also waiting for DL Mike Wright and Myron Pryor to get healthy, and didn't have the services of OLB Jermaine Cunningham, TE Aaron Hernandez or DE Brandon Deaderick last Sunday. With that in mind, there might be more of an incentive for Belichick to be extra cautious with his stars this week.

But, as we know, Tom Brady is quite the competitor. It's not easy to tell him to sit on the bench. He will want to play, as will most of the starters.

Comcast New England's Mary Paoletti took a look back at Belichick's track record in games like this and the result was that he generally plays his starters for at least the first three quarters of the game. But with Welker's injury last season and the injuries the team has dealt with this season, we'll see if Belichick handles this Sunday differently.

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