Patriots

Battle With Buffalo: Pats Look to Clinch 11th Consecutive Division Crown

The team also remains in the race to secure a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs

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The Patriots had no problem ending their brief two-game losing streak.

They still have a little work to do to wrap up another AFC East title.

Buoyed by yet another dominating performance by its defense which scored 17 points off five turnovers, New England improved to 11-3 on Sunday with a 34-13 win over Cincinnati.

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The Patriots can clinch their 11th consecutive division crown with a victory over Buffalo (10-4) on Saturday. It would also keep New England in the race to secure a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

``You play to keep playing,`` Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ``You win four, five, six games ... you don't really get anything for doing that. When you can win enough to play in the postseason, that is one of our goals. It's a good thing."

While still not close to where the team hoped it would be at this point in the season, the Patriots' offense also had some promising moments. Tom Brady was just 15 of 29 for 128 yards, but had two touchdown passes. New England also ran for a season-high 175 yards.

One of Brady's TD passes was a 7-yarder to rookie N'Keal Harry, who is emerging as a solid red-zone option for a team that has struggled inside the 20-yard line.

Safety Devin McCourty said the expectations inside the locker room remain high.

``There's ups and downs in a season, but I think, at the end of the day, we always give ourselves a chance,'' he said. ``Because of that, next week we'll have a chance to play for a championship. That's what you want. You want to have a chance to do that, and making the playoffs is always a part of the season. But for us, it's about playing for championships.``

WHAT'S WORKING

New England's offensive line did a better job of protecting Brady on Sunday. Center Ted Karras returned to the starting lineup following a one-game absence because of a knee injury and no penalties were called on the starting five lineman. Brady was sacked twice, but hurried only six times on his 29 pass attempts.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Brady's receivers were again guilty of multiple dropped passes. According to STATS, the Patriots have 20 drops on the season, tied with Buffalo for the second most in the NFL.

NEXT STEPS

It's a short week for New England to prepare for Buffalo's much-improved offense. The Patriots intercepted Bills quarterback Josh Allen three times in the September win, holding the Bills to just 10 points before Allen was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter. It was Buffalo's lowest-scoring output of the season. The Bills have averaged 22 points over their past 10 games.

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