Posted by Albert Breer December 21, 2009 04:31 PM
Right now, half the AFC is either 8-6 or 7-7. Six of those eight teams are sitting right at .500. So what's separating the Patriots -- who probably aren't appreciably better than the rest -- from the group?
It's actually fairly simple. They don't have bad losses. If you take records from this year up to this point into account, New England hasn't lost to a team that finished with a losing record since falling to the Dolphins during Nick Saban's final year in Miami, 2006. Before that? You have to go back to the bad Monday night loss in Miami in 2004.
And check this out: Tom Brady has never lost a game to an out-of-division opponent with a losing record. The last time the Patriots did so was in the last game Drew Bledsoe started and finished for the team in the 2001 season-opener against the Bengals. Two days later, the 9/11 tragedy happened.
Each of the teams to beat the Patriots this year are .500 or better right now.
Meanwhile, if you examine the pack, you'll see hard-to-explain losses left and right. Check it out:
DENVER (8-6): Washington, Oakland
MIAMI (7-7): Buffalo
JETS (7-7): Buffalo
JACKSONVILLE (7-7): Seattle
PITTSBURGH (7-7): Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland, Chicago
Tennessee, Houston and Baltimore's struggles have been more a product of tough schedules, rough starts (see: Titans) and inconsistency. But that further illustrates one thing the Patriots seem to continue to do well: Show up every Sunday and, on those Sundays when they're better than their opponent, take care of business.