Here's what will motivate Patriots after playoff hopes are snuffed out

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Cassel: There's no doubt how the Pats will approach the final three weeks originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

I’ve been in this position before where the playoffs are basically out of reach. It's frustrating knowing the season hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to go.

But you still want to go out there and perform, because this is your profession. This is what you do for a living. And if you don’t give full effort and don’t go through the appropriate preparations for the game, you’re going to get boat raced.

You don’t want to get embarrassed. You have a lot of pride as players and as an organization, so the approach in those situations is the same.

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I’ve been on a few teams with guys who might've checked out late in the season, where there’s just a certain frustration level and they’ve had disagreements with the coaching staff.

But the Patriots are rock solid. They’ve got great veteran leadership, whether it’s Devin McCourty or Cam Newton -- who has been around for a long time -- or the veterans on the offensive line. They're all-in. They know that they have a job to do, and they’re going to do everything they can to finish strong.

I don’t think Bill Belichick's approach will change either. I think he’ll put the guys out there who give him the best possibility to win. That’s just who he is: He’s a competitor.

And even though this season hasn’t gone as planned, you can build momentum with a team for next season. We went 4-12 in my first year in Kansas City, but that last stretch of games was still important for us because we had some pieces together and we started to play better football at the end of the year. The next year, we came back and won 10 games and won the AFC West.

So, Bill is going to do everything he can to try to win these last three games.

If that means playing Jarrett Stidham because they think he gives them an opportunity to win games, then they’ll do that. If not, then Cam will play for the rest of the season. But I don’t think there will be a lot of dramatic changes.

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This isn’t the preseason where you’re trying to see if a guy can play. If somebody is in the building there, they understand their skill set. They’re going to approach it the same way they do every week. Their sole purpose is to go all out to win.

I believe tanking is a myth. When people on the outside say, "I’m so mad they won today because it hurt the team’s opportunity for a better draft pick" ... players don’t think of it that way. And I know coaches don’t think of it that way, especially on bad teams.

They’re fighting for their livelihood. They’re fighting for their next job. They’re fighting for their families. So, nobody who I’ve been around, whether it’s coaches or players, has talked about tanking.

The Patriots' mission is to finish 9-7. That’s their goal. I guarantee Bill is also telling them, “Look, we have three division opponents, and we play these guys twice every year.”

There’s motivation in beating a division rival like the Dolphins or the Bills who are still fighting for a playoff spot. There's motivation in letting them know, "You had a good season this year, but we’re going to come back stronger than ever. Remember we’re still the New England Patriots."

If you win the division, you’re going to the playoffs. So, when you have three division games left, you want to go out and beat the s--- out of those guys in your division.

If the Patriots win these three division games to finish 9-7? I know everyone is used to winning 12 games around here, but that’s a strong finish that would say a lot about the resilience of this team after the adversity it’s been through in 2020.