2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Patriots nearing 9th division title in 10 years

By HOWARD ULMAN - AP Sports Writer
    2012-11-29 18:59

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Bianca Wilfork could be wearing another new championship T-shirt very soon.

Her husband, Vince, and his New England Patriots teammates are on the verge of clinching their fourth straight division title. They'd secure it with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

For the team, it would be the ninth in 10 seasons. For the star defensive tackle, it would be his eighth in his nine NFL seasons - and the caps and shirts that come with those titles.

``I collect them and I give them to my wife,'' Wilfork said Thursday. ``That'll be for my wife.''

If AFC East championships are becoming routine, the Patriots take nothing for granted. They're focused not on another first-place finish, sure. But winning just one game, the next game - against the Dolphins (5-6) - is priority No. 1.

``You always want to win your division,'' Wilfork said. ``(But) we take it one game at a time and, hopefully, that one game at a time is good enough at the end.''

Besides, division titles don't guarantee postseason success. Look no further than New England.

Despite winning the AFC East title the past three years, the Patriots lost last season's Super Bowl to the New York Giants, 21-17, and were eliminated in their first postseason game the previous two seasons.

Throughout the league, in Bill Belichick's other 12 seasons as New England's coach, four teams that didn't win their divisions went on to become Super Bowl champions.

And, remember, only two of the four division winners in each conference get a first-round bye. If the season ended today, the Patriots (8-3) would lose out on those AFC seeds to the Houston Texans (10-1) and Baltimore Ravens (9-2).

So they can't afford to look past the Dolphins, or anyone else for that matter. Down the road, in fact, Houston and the San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) are on tap.

But that's for another day.

``The fewer games there are, the more important they become,'' Belichick said. ``With each game, we play one less and each one becomes bigger.''

Either way, Belichick and his players consistently play down all their division titles.

``It's very important'' to win one again this year, quarterback Tom Brady said before quickly turning his focus to the next game. ``We're always trying to win every game we play. And, certainly, playing against the Dolphins - a team we know very well playing them twice a year - it would to be a nice little day if we can go down there (and win).''

Still, modest or not, nonchalant about it or not, the Patriots' division dominance is simply extraordinary.

Over the past nine seasons, they lead the NFL with eight division titles. They might have been nine-for-nine if Brady hadn't suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener. During that nine-year stretch, the Indianapolis Colts have seven division championships. No other team has more than five.

Of last year's eight division champions, only the Patriots were repeat winners from 2010.

And under Belichick, they've finished first nine times, second twice and fifth once, his first year (2000). They won the Super Bowl the following season.

This year, they've won their last five games, continuing a trend of improving as the season goes on. They were 8-0 in the second half of the past two seasons and 3-0 so far this year. Back on Oct. 14, New England was tied with the rest of the division at 3-3. The Patriots now lead Miami by three games, and Buffalo and the New York Jets by four.

``My whole career, high school and college, it seems like the longer the season goes, the better I play,'' Wilfork said. ``Nine years now (in the NFL), the same thing. I just prepare well.''

The powerful Wilfork played very well in the Patriots' last game, a 49-19 rout of the Jets on Thanksgiving night. One of his best plays came when he pushed guard Brandon Moore back as Mark Sanchez ran toward them. Sanchez fumbled when he collided with his teammate and safety Steve Gregory picked the ball up and ran for a 32-yard touchdown.

Suddenly, the Patriots led 21-0 just six minutes into the second quarter.

``I haven't paid any attention to that play ever since that game ended,'' Wilfork said. ``I've moved on. We've got games to prepare for. I can't be thinking about one play.''

Once the game was over, though, he had something he was eager to savor. He joined Brady and Gregory in biting into turkey legs before a national audience - a television tradition reserved for stars of Thanksgiving games.

``I just thought about eating, that's all,'' Wilfork said with a smile. ``It actually tasted pretty good, to be honest with you, but it was cold. But it didn't matter at that point. You're starving. You're hungry. You got a turkey in front of you. It's Thanksgiving. You have to eat it.''

And he didn't have to worry about getting food stains on a brand new championship T-shirt.

That could happen on Sunday.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Wes WelkerAug 25 04:13p

Denver Broncos WR Wes Welker (concussion) could play in the team's regular season opener Sunday, September 7, if he does not have any concussion symptoms by Monday, September 1. [ More ]

Chase BlackburnAug 25 01:33p

Carolina Panthers OG Trai Turner (groin) and DEs Greg Hardy (shoulder) and Charles Johnson (hamstring) sat out of practice Sunday, Aug. 24. SS Roman Harper (toe), who missed the [ More ]

LeSean McCoyAug 24 11:53p

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy (thumb, toe) said he will be fine for Week 1 after suffering a thumb injury in the team's preseason game Thursday, Aug. 21. McCoy [ More ]

Chase BlackburnAug 24 11:42p

Carolina Panthers LB Chase Blackburn (back) and SS Roman Harper (toe) returned to practice Sunday, Aug. 24.

Tarell BrownAug 24 11:22p

Oakland Raiders DL Justin Ellis (concussion) returned to practice Sunday, Aug. 24, after missing a couple of weeks with a concussion, and CB Tarell Brown (concussion) practiced after leaving [ More ]

Wes WelkerAug 24 11:22p

Denver Broncos WR Wes Welker (concussion) has a good chance to play in Week 1, according to Mike Klis of The Denver Post. Welker suffered a concussion in the [ More ]

Charles MitchellAug 24 10:32p

The Denver Broncos waived RB Brennan Clay, RB Jerodis Williams, WR Greg Hardin, WR Greg Wilson, QB Bryn Renner, LB Jerrell Harris, CB Charles Mitchell and DL Will Pericak [ More ]

Tahir WhiteheadAug 24 10:30p

Detroit Lions LB Tahir Whitehead had 10 tackles and three sacks during his team's exhibition game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 'He was really playing at a level of one [ More ]

Zac StacyAug 24 10:28p

St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford (knee) is out for the season after an MRI revealed a torn left anterior cruciate ligament. Zac Stacy will be relied upon even [ More ]

Richard RodgersAug 24 10:19p

Green Bay Packers TE Richard Rodgers may be the starting tight end for Week 1 of the regular season. An injury to TE Brandon Bostick, combined with strong play [ More ]

Josh BoyceAug 24 10:06p

New England Patriots WR Josh Boyce did not play an offensive snap until there was 1:26 remaining in the third quarter of the preseason game Friday, Aug. 22, against [ More ]

Johnny ManzielAug 24 09:47p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel could play with QB Brian Hoyer in a two-quarterback system later in the season, according to head coach Mike Pettine. Pettine said a package [ More ]

Winston JusticeAug 24 09:42p

The Denver Broncos released OT Winston Justice and LB Jamar Chaney Sunday, Aug. 24.

D.J. HaydenAug 24 09:12p

Oakland Raiders CB D.J. Hayden (foot) had a good day of work with team trainers, Sunday, Aug. 24, and could return to practice this week, according to head coach Dennis Allen.

Terrell ThomasAug 24 09:02p

The Seattle Seahawks released CB Terrell Thomas Sunday, Aug. 24, a league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Tyrell JohnsonAug 24 08:22p

The Atlanta Falcons released SS Tyrell Johnson Sunday, Aug. 24.

Jordan SennAug 24 07:22p

The Chicago Bears released LB Jordan Senn.

Jordan PalmerAug 24 06:52p

The Chicago Bears released QB Jordan Palmer. QB Jimmy Clausen has won the backup quarterback spot.

Shaun HillAug 24 06:42p

St. Louis Rams QB Shaun Hill will take over as the starting quarterback for the team, according to head coach Jeff Fisher.

Ropati PitoituaAug 24 06:32p

Tennessee Titans DE Ropati Pitoitua (hand) suffered a broken left hand in the third preseason game. He's expected to be ready for the season opener.

Will SmithAug 24 06:03p

The New England Patriots released DT Tommy Kelly, DE Will Smith and LB James Anderson.

Aldrick RobinsonAug 24 05:43p

The Washington Redskins released LB Robert Jackson, FB Stephen Campbell, WR Cody Hoffman, LB Jeremy Kimbrough, WR Rashad Lawrence, DE Jake McDonough, DE Jeremy Towns, WR Aldrick Robinson and FS Ross Madison.

Aaron RodgersAug 24 05:22p

Green Bay Packers C JC Tretter (knee) will miss up to six weeks with a left knee injury. The loss of Aaron Rodgers' starting center could hinder his [ More ]

Drew DavisAug 24 05:12p

Atlanta Falcons LB Marquis Spruill (knee) was placed on Injured Reserve. WR Drew Davis (foot) and SS Zeke Motta (neck) were placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Cam NewtonAug 24 05:02p

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (rib) has a hairline fracture in one of his ribs and will not play in the final preseason game next week. Head coach Ron [ More ]

Sam BradfordAug 24 03:59p

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is out for the 2014 season after an MRI disclosed he tore the ACL in his left knee in Saturday night's preseason game [ More ]

Alan BranchAug 24 03:22p

The Buffalo Bills have released DL Alan Branch.

Marvin McNuttAug 24 02:52p

The Carolina Panthers have released P Jordan Gay, DL Linden Gaydosh, DL Alex Hall, OL Oscar Johnson, LB Anthony Morales, WR Marvin McNutt, WR Kealoha Pilares and DL Craig Roh.

Chris HarperAug 24 02:22p

The Green Bay Packers have released S Charles X. Clay, CB Antonio Dennard, WR Chris Harper, LB Korey Jones, FB Ina Liaina, QB Chase Rettig and WR Gerrard Sheppard.

Toney ClemonsAug 24 02:12p

The Carolina Panthers have released WR Toney Clemons.

Phil LoadholtAug 24 02:02p

An MRI exam for Minnesota Vikings OT Phil Loadholt (ankle) revealed that he has an ankle contusion, as opposed to a sprain, according to a source.

Trumaine JohnsonAug 24 01:02p

St. Louis Rams CB Trumaine Johnson (knee) likely will be sidelined for six weeks after an MRI revealed he has a strained medial collateral ligament.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group