As the 2017 NFL season approaches its midpoint, the New England Patriots find themselves in a true fight to win the AFC East. It’s a rare season for New England when they don’t have a comfortable lead en route to a division title.
That cushion isn’t so comfortable this season. At least not yet. But quarterback Tom Brady knows it’s time for the Patriots to begin to separate from the pack.
“We’re close to the midway point; this is when we really have to hit the accelerator,” Brady said Wednesday, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. “That’s what the good teams do. … To get to 6-2 would be huge for this team.”
Since 2003, the Patriots have won the AFC East in 13 of the last 14 seasons. The only year they missed the postseason was in 2008 when they lost a tiebreaker for the division with the Miami Dolphins at 11-5. Matt Cassel spent nearly the entire year at quarterback after Brady was lost to an ACL injury in the team’s regular season opener. Over that same time frame, they’ve won the AFC East by at least two games in the standings in 11 out of the last 14 years.
The Patriots are 5-2 with the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills a half game back at 4-2 and the New York Jets two games behind at 3-4.
New England faces the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, who have won three straight games including a pair of games on the road against the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders.
This may be the most flawed Patriots team in years given the struggles the defense has had through the first seven weeks of the season. But with Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm, they’re still more than capable of leaving the rest of the AFC East in the dust.