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New England Patriots in the Driver's Seat with a Commanding Divisional Lead

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The Patriots are looking to lock up their AFC East crown earlier than usual.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots are 6-0 for the third time in franchise history (2004, 2007, 2015). They have only been 7-0 once (2007). Bill Belichick and company have a quick turnaround with hosting a Thursday Night game against the resurgent(?) Miami Dolphins.

If New England can defeat the Dolphins and move to 7-0, 3-0 in the division, the Patriots will be in fantastic shape. The victory over the Jets gave the Patriots a commanding 2-game lead in the division, and Miami has lost to the Jets and Bills at home. The Bills are already self-destructing.

On a divisional level, the Bills haven't proven they can beat a good team and they just lost to the Jaguars in London. They're on their bye week at 3-4 and between weeks 10 and 16, they play five road games and host games against the full strength Cowboys (and the Texans). This is a team that could very easily finish the year sub-.500.

The Dolphins are 3-3, but they still have two games against the Patriots and two away games at the Jets and the Bills. They also have games at the Eagles and Chargers, and host the full strength Cowboys, Colts, Giants, and even the Ravens. While Miami has looked like an NFL team the past two weeks, it's come against the Titans (1-5) and the Texans (2-5). They could also finish the year sub-.500.

The Jets are still a threat at 4-2 since they benefit from the easiest outside-the-division schedule in the AFC East due to their last place finish in 2014. They travel to a sneaky-good Raiders team, but they still have their three games against the dregs of the AFC South (Titans, Jaguars, Texans) and two games against the Bills. They have to travel to face the Giants and the full strength Cowboys (boy, the Patriots had some schedule luck). The Jets are good enough to win half of their non-AFC South games, making an 11-5 season a distinct possibility.

If the Patriots can win against the Dolphins, it means that no team in the division can hold the head-to-head tiebreaker and that New England can take advantage of their final stretch. Divisional games will always be tough, but the Patriots still get to play the Titans and the Texans, along with the Eagles and Washington. That leaves away games against the Giants and the Broncos.

While there are no guarantees in football, a victory this Thursday against the Dolphins really helps lock the Patriots into a minimum of 11 victories, which would be enough to keep pace with the Jets. The Bill Belichick-led Patriots have never had a losing record over the final eight games of the season, so a victory over the Dolphins would more realistically lock the team in to a 13-3 or 14-2 campaign.

The Patriots victory over the Jets went a long way in helping the team towards yet another divisional crown. A victory over the Dolphins would all but seal it.