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Fans not confident in Patriots’ ability to shake third place status in the AFC East

Related: #PostPulpit Mailbag: Reasons for optimism; And where is Chase Winovich?

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NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are in a rather unfamiliar situation heading into their Week 9 matchup against the New York Jets on Monday night: sitting at 2-5 after seven regular season games , they are looking up in the AFC East and need to get back to winning football games soon in order not to get lost in the race for at least a wild card spot in the playoffs.

While only the 0-8 Jets are trailing them in the divisional standings, after all, the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are pulling away. Buffalo just beat the Seattle Seahawks in impressive fashion to improve to 7-2 on the season. Miami, meanwhile, now owns a 5-3 record following a road victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots, on the other hand, are a long way not just from the two of them but even a .500 record.

Earning a win in New York against the lowly Jets is imperative. However, even a much-needed victory would not improve New England’s place within the AFC East — one that fans are not confident that will change once the regular season is said and done.

According to SB Nation’s latest Reacts survey, 67 percent of Patriots fans believe that the team will not be able to shake its current third place status. For comparison, only 27 percent think that the team will leapfrog at least one of the clubs it is currently trailing to finish in second place. The group of those who still see New England win the AFC East to earn its record-extending 12th straight division crown makes up only five percent, meanwhile.

That drop in confidence does not come as a surprise given that the Patriots are entering Monday night coming off four straight losses. During those games, some major issues were on full display on both sides of the ball: the offense failed to build a consistent rhythm and hold onto the football, while the defense struggled to contain the run.

As a result, fan confidence dropped steadily since peaking at 93 percent entering Week 4. While it was relatively high at 83 and 91 percent the next two weeks, back-to-back losses against the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers left it at 25 percent before last Sunday’s game in Buffalo. New England looked better versus the Bills, but ultimately came up short once again. Fan confidence did improve to 27 percent, but is still just 24th in the league.

Add all of this up and you can see why fans do not feel good about the team’s prospects this season — and why they predict the Patriots to finish in third place in the AFC East.

If you are interested in participating in our NFL Reacts survey, please sign up here!