Not Since 1995
It finally happened. The Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East. They had a stretch from 1988-95 where they won the division 6 out of 8 seasons. Winning the division this year validates them as a perennial contender in the AFC going forward. With their victory against Pittsburgh and the Steelers decline since, Buffalo is a prime spot to clinch the second seed unless the Kansas City Chiefs lose out the rest of the way. For all of the talk about QB Josh Allen and whether he would be their answer at the position, I firmly believe that has been put to bed now. I didn’t think he would be that bad, but giving him enough targets to throw to and the improvement of his accuracy (68% completion percentage) has the Bills where they are now. They will be fun to watch in January.
Could It Actually Happen?
With the Pittsburgh Steelers now having lost 3 in a row, the most recent coming at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. The Cleveland Browns are within one game of them for the AFC North division title. Cleveland gets to play the New York Jets in Week 16 while the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Indianapolis Colts. Should the Steelers lose and the Browns win, Week 17 has them facing each other in Cleveland for the division title. The Steelers are proving what I have suspected about them for most of the year and that the offense is stagnant and one dimensional. Cleveland is proving me wrong for doubting them, but let’s face it it’s happened before in recent years. This year looks to be different. For the Browns sake, just beat the Jets this week and let the chips fall where they may the following week. Cleveland has yet to clinch a playoff spot and once that happens, then they can think about possibly taking the division.
Not Since 2008
It’s been that long since the New England Patriots have missed the playoffs. The last and only time the Patriots under Bill Belichick had a losing record was his first year as head coach in 2000. This year they are in danger of having a losing record currently at 6-8. This will be only the fourth time as head coach of the Patriots that Belichick has missed the playoffs. He’s been the head coach for 21 seasons, won 17 division titles, appeared in 9 Super Bowls and won six of them. This is an insane level of success that I don’t think will ever be matched. For a league that prides itself on parity, the Patriots have bucked that trend for over two decades. I don’t believe this is the beginning of the end, but it will hinge on what they do at quarterback going forward. They struck gold with Tom Brady and they’ll need to again.