Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show and talked about the how the Patriots will approach the final two games of the regular season.
New England travels to Jacksonville on Sunday for a game against the 2-12 Jaguars, and King said it isn't likely the Pats will lack motivation despite the lack of a high-quality opponent.
"The reason why I don't think they slip up is because there are too many young players on defense who are still trying to make their way, make an impression, work for playing time," King said. "Aqib Talib is not going to take it easy because it's the Jacksonville Jaguars and they're supposed to beat them 45-3. I'd always be stunned if you're playing Muskingum College this week if Tom Brady took it easy on anybody. So, no, I doubt it sincerely."
Added King: "I just don't think [Bill Belichick is] going to treat the last two games any differently, except maybe to rest guys who need to be rested or maybe to get Ryan Mallett some work."
Rob Gronkowski reportedly will miss Sunday's game, and King said the Pats need to be cautious with the tight end's return from an arm injury.
"The only way I'd play him against Miami next week is if he absolutely was very close to 100 percent and he felt like it was advantageous to get a game in before the playoffs started," King said. "Otherwise I would leave him on the shelf. I'd treat the last two games like the fourth preseason game for him. The only way you play him is if there's some benefit to the team and to him. I don't see how there would be because obviously he's done all this so many times."
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is rumored to be a hot candidate for head coaching openings. McDaniels previously spent two years in Denver as a head coach but it ended with his dismissal late in the 2011 season.
"I talked to Josh quite a bit during that time and after he left [Denver], and I know that he felt that there were some things he would do differently a second time around," King said. "I think what happens when you take a job for the first time, the one thing that you do is you think about it for a long time and you think how you'd handle certain things. Josh McDaniels saw Bill Belichick handle things a certain way for so long that I think he went into Denver and he handled a lot of things in the Belichick way. I think he'd handle a lot of things differently."
Added King: "I think he learned some things. I think he also learned that he's got to be more himself. Because I know people around this league who for years have known Josh McDaniels and have really liked him and had great respect for him. He's not one of those guys who is an autocratic, put-his-heel-on-your-throat guy. He just never has been. He's a guy who's a conciliator and all that. I think that a lot of people in Denver looked at him as a guy who tried to be Belichick Jr. when just being Josh McDaniels, in my mind, would have been very much good enough. And I think if he gets a second chance that's one of the things he will have learned."