FOXBORO — Bill Belichick is very aware of the fact that a first-round bye is just a win away.

Therefore, he doesn’t need the distraction of watching the scoreboard or watching the games on TV before his team takes the field for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff vs. the Bills on Sunday.

The situation is this: Win, and the Patriots will have a weekend to rest their weary bodies and watch the first round on TV for a fourth straight year.

The Patriots won’t have to worry about EJ Manuel this Sunday when they play the Buffalo Bills in the season finale at Gillette Stadium.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Patriots and news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

With the Patriots in line for a No. 2 seed — and the possibility of getting No. 1 or No. 3 — New Englanders have their eye on the playoffs in an AFC that lacks a dominant team.

FOXBORO — The Patriots made a practice squad move on Friday, signing rookie RB Sam McGuffie to the practice squad while releasing RB Cierre Wood. McGuffie also brings experience and roster depth as a slot receiver.

FOXBORO — After much debate and conflicting reports, it was confirmed Friday that linebacker Rob Ninkovich did attend practice. He told reporters he’ll be ready to play Sunday in Buffalo.

“I haven’t missed a practice all season,” said Ninkovich, who had an ice pack on his left ankle in the locker room after practice.

Asked if he’ll be ready to play in the season finale, Ninkovich said, “I’ll be all right.”

FOXBORO — For the fourth time this season, the Patriots have released defensive back Marquice Cole from their roster.

The Patriots returned to the practice field Thursday outside Gillette Stadium and there was one more name on the injury report. Rob Ninkovich showed up for the first time this week with an injured ankle suffered in the Patriots’ win in Baltimore Sunday.

FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley had politely declined to speak about his Dec. 1 benching for the last several weeks. On Thursday, the third-year running back felt it was finally time to open up.

FOXBORO — Devin McCourty and Josh Boyce were the only two Patriots players not in attendance Thursday as the Patriots returned to the practice field after having Christmas Day off. Both players also missed the light walkthrough inside Dana Farber Field House on Tuesday before getting the holiday off on Wednesday.

Both players were projected as not participating Wednesday if the team had held a practice. The Patriots were required to issue the report per NFL guidelines.

According to reports, Ed Hochuli will work as the referee for Sunday’s Bills-Patriots game.

Hochuli, known for his physique — as well as his occasional tendency to over explain a penalty — will be working his first New England game of the season. He was last on a Patriots game last year when New England met San Francisco at Gillette Stadium.