FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - The stakes rise as the New England Patriots prepare for the playoffs. A player's routine, veteran guard Brian Waters says, should stay the same.
That's the advice of the 12-year veteran to rookies and other teammates who reached the postseason for the first time.
"The routine is what saves you. It's what lets you know that you're prepared," Waters said Tuesday. "If you fall off the routine, you're going to always find yourself feeling like you left something out. It's kind of like packing at the last minute. You always feel like there's something you forgot."
The Patriots don't have to worry about forgetting their toothbrushes. They won't be traveling since they have home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs for as long as they're in them. Their opening game is set for Jan. 14 against Denver, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.
"If you're preparing through the course of this week and all of next week then I think you'll feel really prepared going into the game," said Waters, in his first season with New England after 11 with Kansas City.
Sound advice, says rookie tackle Nate Solder, the 17th pick of the draft, even if it's the biggest game of the season.
"There's been so many big games this year. We wouldn't be where we are now without so many big games," he said. "If that's what (Waters) said, I'm learning from him."
But there's not much that players can do before their next game to get rid of nagging injuries that piled up over a 16-game schedule.
"There's not a lot of stuff you can do over the next week and a half that's going to really make you feel like you had a couple of months off," Waters said. "Don't do anything different than what you've been doing all season. I think that's the best remedy. You want to take care of your body as best you can but you should have been doing that all season."
"You can find examples of both," coach Bill Belichick said. "(It) certainly wasn't important for us in '01 to have a lot of playoff experience because we didn't. We've won with experience, we've lost with experience. We've won without experience, we've lost without experience."
New England won Super Bowls in the 2003 and 2004 seasons then lost it in the 2007 season with a veteran team.
"Every year is different," Waters said. "You've got a lot of teams that are going to be in this that may be in it for the first time (and) are going to be really hungry. You've got a lot of matchups of teams that really don't play each other a whole bunch. So having a lot of experience in the playoffs is a good thing to have, but it won't be a key factor."
How about a bye week? Shouldn't that help?
"The last time I had a bye week it didn't end up well for us," Waters said.
"I wasn't here so I really can't speak to how things went the last couple of years," Waters said. "I can say that there's nothing but good teams left in this thing and there are some teams that really do well on the road."