Thursday, December 5, 2013

Division title could officially be decided this week


It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that the New England Patriots will win the division.

The Patriots have a three-game lead -- and thus far, a head-to-head tiebreaker -- on the second-place Miami Dolphins with just four games to go.

And while the teams do face off one more time before the season commences, the Dolphins would need to win out while the Patriots undertake a monumental collapse of epic proportions in order to earn the title.

That won't happen.

New England can officially clinch the division for the fifth consecutive season and 10th time in 11 years with a win over the Cleveland Browns and a Dolphins loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are well out of the race at 5-7 and 4-8, respectively.

If it doesn't happen this week, it will be next week. Or the week after. But as usual, Patriots coach Bill Belichick remains shortsighted.

"Really, we're not talking too much about that," Belichick said early this week. "The only thing we can really control is how we play against Cleveland. That's really what we need to focus on. Whatever else does or doesn't happen in the league is definitely totally outside of our control."

Belichick may not just be blowing smoke, but the Patriots will certainly rest a little easier once the division is formally a done deal.

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