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The Regular Season Is Over

After impressive wins on the road over the Broncos and Raiders, the Patriots have all but sown up yet another AFC East Championship.  While this no longer warrants much attention in New England (stores will not open early to sell hats and t-shirts once the Patriots officially clinch the title), it is impressive given the way the season began and the manner in which the Patriots have righted their ship.  Impressive, but not unprecedented.

The Patriots now sit comfortably on top of the AFC East with a three game lead with only six games left in the regular season.  Just three weeks ago, Buffalo was only a half-game behind the Patriots at 5-2, with Miami right behind the Bills at 4-3.  What a difference a few weeks can make.  The Bills have imploded and lost three straight, while the Dolphins have dropped four in a row to put to rest any thoughts they had of contending in the East. 

Buffalo, in a pure panic move, benched starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor this week and went with rookie Nathan Peterman.  Peterman rewarded his coach with five interceptions in the first half against the Chargers on the way to a 54-24 beat down in Los Angeles.  Just when you thought the AFC East might be race, it was over.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone.  The Bills, Dolphins and Jets have been nothing but nuisance pests to the Patriots for the better part of this century.  Each have had revolving doors in the front office, at head coach and at the quarterback position, with none able to find the formula to bring themselves even close to the level of the Patriots.  In their six remaining games, the Patriots will play both the Bill and the Dolphins two times each, with the Dolphins next up on the schedule in Foxborough.  Is there any doubt how the season will play out? 

The only game of interest the rest of the way should be a Week 15 visit to Pittsburgh, who are currently tied with the Patriots for the best record in the conference at 8-2.  The Steelers face a soft schedule in their next three games, with games against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, the woeful Cincinnati Bengals, and the inconsistent Ravens. 

If the Patriots and Steelers each take care of business, they should meet with both at 11-2 with home field advantage in the playoffs on the line.  And, if all goes according to past history, the Patriots will leave Pittsburgh with a decisive victory and Steeler Head Coach Mike Tomlin will be left fuming at his post-game press conference.  The Patriots will finish the season with the best record in the conference, a cupcake opponent for their first playoff game, and yet another trip to the AFC Championship Game.

This has all happened before, and it will happen again.

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 


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