With the NFL season almost at the halfway point, the New England Patriots stand at 4-4. That record is not great, but they are at .500 which is good enough for second place in the AFC East.
They are a couple of plays away from having an even better record. They could be 6-2 or even 7-1. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is playing well and getting better every week.
The Patriots have been playing better recently and are in the thick of things in the AFC playoff race. With nine games remaining, including two against the division-leading Buffalo Bills, the question is can they challenge them and win the division.
From 2001 to 2019, in the Tom Brady Era, the Patriots ruled the division. The only times they didn’t win the East were in 2002 (New York Jets) and 2008 (Miami Dolphins.) The Bills won their first division title since 1995 last season and made it to the AFC Championship.
Currently, they lead the division with a 5-2 record. Their losses were to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week one and the Tennessee Titans in week six. Quarterback Josh Allen is having a great season and is in the conversation for MVP. He has thrown for 1,972 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 269 yards and adding another three touchdowns on the ground.
Week 9 @Jacksonville Jaguars W
Week 10 @ New York Jets W
Week 11 Indianapolis Colts W
Week 12 @ New Orleans Saints L
Week 13 New England Patriots W
Week 14 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers L
Week 15 Carolina Panthers W
Week 16 @ New England Patriots L
Week 17 Atlanta Falcons W
Week 18 New York Jets W
The Bills remaining schedule includes a couple of tough matchups, but it looks manageable. I see them ending with a 12-5 record, maybe even 13-4. They have road games in New Orleans, Tampa, and Foxborough, which will be challenging.
Josh Allen is the key to the Bills as he is an MVP candidate. The Bills are the favorite to win the East. Winning the division gives them a chance to get that first-round bye in the playoffs. That would put them in a position to win the AFC and go to their first Super Bowl since 1993.
New England Patriots
Jones was not as sharp as he has been, but the defense forced two turnovers and limited Justin Herbert and the Charger offense. The Patriots ran for 142 yards, with Damien Harris accounting for 80 of those and a touchdown.
Week 9 @ Carolina Panthers W
Week 10 Cleveland Browns W
Week 11 @ Atlanta Falcons W
Week 12 Tennessee Titans W
Week 13 @ Buffalo Bills L
Week 15 @ Indianapolis Colts W
Week 16 Buffalo Bills W
Week 17 Jacksonville Jaguars W
Week 18 @ Miami Dolphins L
The Patriot’s remaining schedule does not look as daunting as it once did. They are at Carolina this week, but quarterback Sam Darnold may be out due to a concussion. Christian McCaffrey could return but he may be limited.
The Browns game seems winnable and they just released wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Baker Mayfield has been dealing with injuries all season and has not been quite right. Still, their defense is good and the Patriots could have a tough time. The Falcons game could be tough since it is a Thursday Night game.
The Titans game will be a good one even though Derrick Henry is out for that one. The two games with the Bills will be interesting. Last season the Pats had a chance to win in Buffalo until a Cam Newton fumble ended the drive and they lost 24-21.
In the rematch in Gillette Stadium, the Bills beat down the Patriots 38-9. I think both of these games this season will be closer and they could go either way. I will say the Bills win in Buffalo and the Patriots win in Foxborough. The game with the Colts is sandwiched in between the Bills games. I will call that game for the Patriots even though it is in Indy.
After the Bills game, the Jaguars will visit Gillette. Everyone knows that Bill Belichick beats rookie quarterbacks. He has already defeated the New York Jets with Zach Wilson twice and the Houston Texans with Davis Mills this season. Trevor Lawrence will join the list of rookies beaten by Belichick.
The final game of the season will be in Miami. The Dolphins already beat the Patriots in Week 1, and they have always struggled in Miami. This game could decide if the Patriots make the postseason. I think the Dolphins will win this one.
I see New England finishing with an 11-6 record and making it back to the NFL Playoffs. They have shown improvement but the Bills are probably the best team in the AFC. The Pats will play them close but the Bills will win the AFC East for the second consecutive season.
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