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Sports

November 30, 2012

Patriots nearing 9th division title in 10 years

(Continued)

But that’s for another day.

“The fewer games there are, the more important they become,” Belichick said. “With each game, we play one less and each one becomes bigger.”

Either way, Belichick and his players consistently play down all their division titles.

“It’s very important” to win one again this year, quarterback Tom Brady said before quickly turning his focus to the next game. “We’re always trying to win every game we play. And, certainly, playing against the Dolphins — a team we know very well playing them twice a year — it would to be a nice little day if we can go down there (and win).”

Still, modest or not, nonchalant about it or not, the Patriots’ division dominance is simply extraordinary.

Over the past nine seasons, they lead the NFL with eight division titles. They might have been nine-for-nine if Brady hadn’t suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener. During that nine-year stretch, the Indianapolis Colts have seven division championships. No other team has more than five.

Of last year’s eight division champions, only the Patriots were repeat winners from 2010.

And under Belichick, they’ve finished first nine times, second twice and fifth once, his first year (2000). They won the Super Bowl the following season.

This year, they’ve won their last five games, continuing a trend of improving as the season goes on. They were 8-0 in the second half of the past two seasons and 3-0 so far this year. Back on Oct. 14, New England was tied with the rest of the division at 3-3. The Patriots now lead Miami by three games, and Buffalo and the New York Jets by four.

“My whole career, high school and college, it seems like the longer the season goes, the better I play,” Wilfork said. “Nine years now (in the NFL), the same thing. I just prepare well.”

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