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

Peyton ManningNov 24 08:53p

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (foot, ribs) will miss at least the next two weeks as he continues to recover from a partially torn plantar fascia and a rib [ More ]

Tyrod TaylorNov 24 07:13p

Updating a previous report, Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor (shoulder) is dealing with a shoulder injury, and head coach Rex Ryan expects Taylor to be able to play in [ More ]

Chip KellyNov 24 06:43p

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly may not return as head coach of the Eagles next year, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Schefter said momentum and signs seem [ More ]

B.J. DanielsNov 24 06:13p

The Seattle Seahawks re-signed WR B.J. Daniels to the active roster Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Matt ForteNov 24 05:33p

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte (knee) and WR Alshon Jeffery (groin) are both expected to suit up in Week 12 against the Green Bay Packers Thursday, Nov. 26. Both [ More ]

Aaron DobsonNov 24 05:23p

Updating a previous report, New England Patriots WR Aaron Dobson (ankle) is expected to miss at least Week 12 with an ankle injury, and possibly more time. Dobson's X-rays were negative, though.

Danny AmendolaNov 24 05:13p

New England Patriots WR Danny Amendola (knee) suffered a knee sprain in a Week 11 win over the Buffalo Bills. He is not expected to miss extended time, though. [ More ]

Jimmy ClausenNov 24 04:33p

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Nov. 24, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament. Free-agent QB [ More ]

Joe FlaccoNov 24 04:33p

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Nov. 24, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament. Free-agent QB [ More ]

Sam BradfordNov 24 04:23p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (shoulder, concussion) had 'some memory loss' after sustaining a concussion in Week 10, and he also said his separated left shoulder could keep him [ More ]

Josh McCownNov 24 04:03p

Cleveland Browns QB Josh McCown will start in Week 12. QB Austin Davis will serve as backup, while QB Johnny Manziel will be Cleveland's No. 3 quarterback.

Johnny ManzielNov 24 04:03p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel will serve as the Browns' No. 3 quarterback in Week 12. QB Josh McCown will start.

Zach ErtzNov 24 03:03p

Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz (concussion) will not play Thursday, Nov. 26, against the Detroit Lions as he will still be in the concussion protocol.

Bryce BrownNov 24 02:13p

Free-agent RB Bryce Brown (Seahawks) is re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Colin KaepernickNov 24 01:13p

San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (shoulder) had surgery to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder Tuesday, Nov. 24, and he is expected to need a recovery [ More ]

Devin FunchessNov 24 12:23p

Carolina Panthers WR Devin Funchess is showing signs of becoming a similar receiver to teammate WR Kelvin Benjamin, who caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns in [ More ]

Tyrod TaylorNov 24 12:03p

Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor's (chest) availability for Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs is unknown, but head coach Rex Ryan hopes his quarterback will be available. Ryan [ More ]

Sam BradfordNov 24 11:03a

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (concussion, shoulder) cleared the concussion protocol Tuesday, Nov. 24, but it's unknown if he'll start Thursday, Nov. 26.

Ryan MathewsNov 24 10:53a

Philadelphia Eagles RB Ryan Mathews (concussion) is still in the concussion protocol Tuesday, Nov. 24, and remains out of practice.

Danny AmendolaNov 23 11:13p

New England Patriots WR Danny Amendola (knee) suffered a right knee injury on a non-contact play on a punt return in the third quarter of the Week 11 game [ More ]

Aaron DobsonNov 23 07:23p

New England Patriots WR Aaron Dobson (back) is officially active for the Week 11 game against the Buffalo Bills.

Marshawn LynchNov 23 07:13p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) is not expected to play in the Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team is expected to find out Tuesday, Nov. [ More ]

Jamie CollinsNov 23 07:13p

The New England Patriots have declared LB Jamie Collins, WR Julian Edelman, CB Justin Coleman, WR Keshawn Martin, DL Sealver Siliga, OG Tre Jackson, DL Trey Flowers inactive for Week 11.

Anthony McCoyNov 23 05:33p

Washington Redskins TE Anthony McCoy was waived Monday, Nov. 23. Free-agent TE Je'Ron Hamm (Redskins) was re-signed to the Redskins' practice squad.

Emmanuel SandersNov 23 04:53p

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) is dealing with a high-ankle sprain. Sanders hopes to play in Week 12, and added that Monday, Nov. 23, was the first day [ More ]

Marshawn LynchNov 23 04:33p

Updating a previous report, Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) is traveling to meet with a specialist Monday, Nov. 23, after sitting out with an abdominal injury in Week [ More ]

Ryan FitzpatrickNov 23 03:53p

New York Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain the starter in Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins, according to head coach Todd Bowles.

Brian HoyerNov 23 03:43p

Houston Texans QB Brian Hoyer (concussion) will start in Week 12 after passing his final concussion test, according to head coach Bill O'Brien.

Joseph MorganNov 23 03:13p

Baltimore Ravens WR Joe Morgan was waived Monday, Nov. 23.

Devonta FreemanNov 23 03:03p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) is off to a good start in the NFL-mandated concussion protocol, according to head coach Dan Quinn.

Peyton ManningNov 23 02:33p

Denver Broncos QB Brock Osweiler is not Denver's permanent starting quarterback for the rest of the season, according to sources. QB Peyton Manning (foot) is expected to start again once he is healthy.

Mark SanchezNov 23 02:03p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez appears to be the leading candidate to start in the Week 12 game against the Detroit Lions Thursday, Nov. 26, according to OT Lane Johnson.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
Player Notes:
Forum Posts:

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group