FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The road is not always smooth. It is not always headed the same direction, and there are sometimes some detours.
But if there's one thing the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins have grown accustomed to over the past 13 years, it's that the road will almost always run through Foxborough.
The Bills fell to 2-4 with a 27-24 loss in overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets stumbled to 3-3 in their 19-6 loss to the previously winless Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dolphins are on a bye this week, but after winning their first three games, they have lost two straight games to fall to 3-2.
The Patriots sit at 5-1 in the AFC East, and with the Dolphins on a bye, they will take a 1.5-game division lead into Week 7, the first time they've had more than a one-game lead all season.
They can't rest on that too long, though; their mettle will be tested once again with a trip to MetLife Stadium to take on the Jets -- the Patriots riding high off an emotional win, the Jets hungry after a tough loss to swallow.
"They're going to be motivated," said quarterback Tom Brady. "They lost, they're playing at home and we've already played them once."
History tells us, however, that the Jets tend to crash-and-burn against the Patriots in their second meeting of the season. New England has outscored their border rivals 162-51 in the second meeting the past four seasons. That includes a 45-3 blowout in 2010 and the "Buttfumble" game in 2012.
It seemed like the Jets had turned a corner with a thrilling 30-28 win last week over the Atlanta Falcons, but some of the most time-tested issues facing the Jets resurfaced. As a team, the Jets currently have 14 turnovers on the season; they went without a turnover against the Falcons, but quarterback Geno Smith threw two interceptions against the Steelers -- one on an ill-advised throw into triple coverage, fit for a rookie.
The Patriots defense, on the other hand, has created 11 turnovers this year, and has now forced at least one turnover in an NFL-record 33 games.
The outcome of the next two games could decide whether the Patriots walk away easily with their 11th division title in the past 13 years, or end up in a dog fight until the very end of the season. The Patriots play the Dolphins in Miami in Week 15, and host the Bills in Week 17.
For now, though, the Patriots remain atop their division, and with the Patriots trending the opposite direction from the rest of the group, they have put those teams on notice that to keep up with the Patriots in the AFC East doesn't mean simply making the right moves in the offseason, it also means consistently winning games in the regular season.
That's something the rest of the division has failed to do for a long time, and so far in 2013.
The author is solely responsible for the content.