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That Old Feeling: Patriots Once Again Atop AFC East

In addition to the top spot in the Division, the Patriots have a chance to earn the number one position in the AFC in Week Twelve.

As the late great Yogi Berra once said, ‘It’s like deja vu all over again.’

For the first time since taking home the division title in 2019, the New England Patriots are once again in sole possession of the top spot in the AFC East.

Following an impressive 25-0 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday (their fifth-consecutive win) the Patriots positioned themselves to enter Week Twelve of the 2021 NFL season, with a record of 7-4, and in prime position to contend for a spot in the postseason.

Still, heading into Sunday’s Week Eleven slate, the Pats were still trailing the Buffalo Bills for the Division lead. With a little help from an old rival, that is no longer the case.

The Bills’ 41-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday dropped them to 6-4 on the 2021 season. As a result, the Patriots have returned to the first place slot of the Division which they have won 17 times since 2001. Though the Pats and Bills have the same amount of losses on the season to date, New England has one more win. The Patriots have yet to reach their bye week, while the Bills had their break in Week Seven.

What It Means for the Patriots

Through eleven games in 2021, the AFC East current standings are as follows:

  1. New England Patriots (7-4)
  2. Buffalo Bills (6-4)
  3. Miami Dolphins (4-7)
  4. New York Jets (2-8)

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The Patriots have three remaining divisional games on their schedule, including two against Buffalo. The Pats will head to Orchard Park, New York to take on the Bills on Monday, December 6. New England will host Buffalo for a post-Christmas Sunday afternoon matchup on December 26. While the Pats cannot neglect their January 9 meeting with the Miami Dolphins to close the 2021 regular season, the outcome of their games with the Bills may be the deciding factor in the fate of the 2021 AFC East.

While contending for a Division title is more than enough to spark excitement among the Patriots fan base, the team is also within striking distance for the top spot in the AFC.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The 2021 New England Patriots…a team which started the 2021 season at 2-4…with a rookie quarterback, a coach that was purported to be ‘past his prime’ and a host of question marks, might just be poised to earn a first round bye in the 2021 playoffs.

How, you may ask? Let’s take a look.

The Pats’ Week Twelve opponent, the Tennessee Titans also suffered a surprising loss on Sunday, dropping an AFC South Divisional matchup to the Houston Texans by a final score of 22-13. As a result, the Titans fell to 8-3 on the season. While they will remain at the top of the conference as they arrive in Foxboro for their matchup with the Pats on Sunday, a loss would allow the Patriots to bypass them in the standings.

Of course, New England would need some help to complete their ascent. With the Baltimore Ravens holding on to down the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Patriots will remain the third seed in the AFC playoffs at the conclusion of Week Eleven.

In addition to beating the Titans on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns will need to defeat the Ravens, and the Pittsburgh Steelers (who remain ahead in the loss column after tying the Detroit Lions in Week Ten) will need to suffer a loss either in Week Eleven (vs. Los Angeles Chargers) or in Week Twelve (vs. Cincinnati Bengals) in order for the Pats to earn the top spot in the AFC heading into December

While there is still much football to be played, the mood in New England is understandably high. The New England Patriots control their own fate in the AFC, and there is something very familiar about all of it.