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November 7, 2013

Brady, Patriots lead way -- surprise! -- in AFC East

(Continued)

Here are five things to know about the AFC East going into the second half:

FANTASTIC FINISH: It’s difficult to imagine the Patriots not ending up on top again, not with a two-game lead. But the NFL’s schedule makers provided a bit of intrigue for the second half.

In December, the Dolphins play each of their AFC East rivals, including the Jets twice. Miami is at New York in Week 13, then hosts New England in Week 15 and is at Buffalo the following week. If New York and Miami keep pace with each other, Week 17 could be the equivalent of a play-in game as the Jets are at the Dolphins to wrap up the regular season.

BRADY’S BUNCH: Brady is having one of his more underwhelming seasons with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions, but provided a reminder of just how dominant he can be last Sunday. With Gronkowski and Amendola on the field together and healthy, Brady threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-31 rout of Pittsburgh. Brady’s first two TD tosses? To Amendola and Gronkowski.

Shane Vereen might be back soon from a broken left wrist, bolstering the Patriots’ backfield and providing Brady with another playmaker.

Just what the rest of the division needs.

JEKYLL-AND-HYDE JETS: They win one, then lose one. Win one and lose one. And, repeat.

They joined the 2005 Patriots as the only teams to alternate wins and losses through their first nine games, but they know they need to start ripping off some wins — consecutively — if they still plan to make the playoffs.

New York holds the No. 6 spot in the AFC race, an improbable position considering many had the Jets ranked among the NFL’s worst heading into the season. Smith has also gone back and forth between game-winning performances and turnover-filled disappointments while trying to establish himself as the future of the franchise.

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