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

Zach MettenbergerOct 21 04:18p

Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker (thumb) will start at quarterback when he's healthy, according to head coach Ken Whisenhunt. QB Charlie Whitehurst has filled in for Locker twice this [ More ]

Bene BenwikereOct 21 04:13p

Carolina Panthers CB Bene Benwikere (ankle) will return as the starting nickel cornerback when he's back from his injury, according to head coach Ron Rivera. If Benwikere can't play [ More ]

Martavis BryantOct 21 04:06p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Martavis Bryant cut into WR Markus Wheaton's workload in Week 7 against the Houston Texans, and QB Ben Roethlisberger took three 'shot' plays down the field [ More ]

Andre EllingtonOct 21 04:03p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington had 88 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving in Week 7, and only four players in franchise history since 1960 to have more yards [ More ]

Ryan MathewsOct 21 03:43p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) did not practice Tuesday, Oct. 21, and is not expected to play Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos.

Donald BrownOct 21 03:43p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) did not practice Tuesday, Oct. 21, and is not expected to play Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos.

Michael SamOct 21 03:33p

The Dallas Cowboys cut DE Michael Sam from the team's practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Charles GodfreyOct 21 03:13p

The Carolina Panthers released CB Charles Godfrey Tuesday, Oct 21.

LaRon ByrdOct 21 02:33p

The Miami Dolphins signed free-agent WR LaRon Byrd (Cowboys) and re-signed DT Deandre Coleman Tuesday, Oct. 21.

R. Griffin IIIOct 21 02:13p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) will not be ruled out for Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys, but he has a long way to go in order [ More ]

Brian HoyerOct 21 02:13p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel could see some action in Week 8 against the Oakland Raiders, according to head coach Mike Pettine. However, Pettine said Monday, Oct. 20, that [ More ]

C.J. SpillerOct 21 02:13p

The Buffalo Bills placed RB C.J. Spiller (collarbone) on short-term Reserve/Injured Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Ray RiceOct 21 01:33p

Free-agent RB Ray Rice (Ravens) will have the appeal of his indefinite suspension from the NFL heard Nov. 5-6, according to media reports. A decision on whether commissioner Roger [ More ]

Jason KelceOct 21 01:23p

Philadelphia Eagles C David Molk will remain the center for now, with C Jason Kelce (hernia) nearing a return from his injury.

Shamarko ThomasOct 21 01:23p

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Ryan Shazier (knee) and SS Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) 'have a pretty good chance' of returning in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts, according to head coach Mike Tomlin.

Darren SprolesOct 21 01:23p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee) returned to practice Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Phillip TannerOct 21 01:13p

The Buffalo Bills are signing free-agent RB Phillip Tanner (Cowboys) Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Calvin JohnsonOct 21 01:13p

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) said he is back to running Tuesday, Oct. 21. Johnson sat out in Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints and appears to [ More ]

Terrelle PryorOct 21 01:13p

Free-agent QB Terrelle Pryor (Seahawks) is working out for the New York Giants Tuesday, Oct. 21, according to a person familiar with the workouts. It appears as though Pryor [ More ]

Reggie WayneOct 21 12:53p

Updating previous reports, Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne's (elbow) injury isn't believed to be serious, but it could cause him to miss a game or two, according to a [ More ]

Phil TaylorOct 21 12:23p

Cleveland Browns DE Phil Taylor (knee) is expected to miss his third straight game in Week 8 after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 8.

A.J. GreenOct 21 12:12p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) said his return from a toe injury is 'still up in the air' heading into Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens. However, Green [ More ]

Le'Veon BellOct 21 12:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell became the first running back in team history to start the year with seven straight games of 100 yards of total offense. Bell ran [ More ]

Antonio AndrewsOct 21 11:03a

Tennessee Titans RB Antonio Andrews was promoted to the 53-man roster Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Dwayne AllenOct 21 10:33a

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (hip) said he is still working his way back to pre-injury form, but he looks a lot better than he did in training camp, [ More ]

Reggie WayneOct 21 10:33a

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow) could miss time with his elbow injury. Beat writer Stephen Holder tweeted that he isn't receiving good vibes from the situation, but it [ More ]

Terrance WestOct 21 09:43a

Cleveland Browns RB Terrance West was benched Sunday, Oct. 19, after failing to pick up a first down in two short-yardage situations. He had room to run on both [ More ]

Ben TateOct 21 09:43a

Cleveland Browns RBs Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West were held to 69 yards on 33 carries in Week 7, and head coach Mike Pettine suggested a change [ More ]

Pierre ThomasOct 21 08:53a

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas (shoulder) is expected to miss two to three weeks due to a shoulder injury, according to sources.

Trindon HollidayOct 21 08:23a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free-agent WR Trindon Holliday (Giants) to an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Tharold SimonOct 20 11:04p

Seattle Seahawks CB Tharold Simon (ankle) and CB Byron Maxwell (calf) may be able to play in Week 7, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

A.J. GreenOct 20 10:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) said he will play Sunday, Oct. 26, against the Baltimore Ravens, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

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