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Dave D'Onofrio's Patriots Notebook: Are Patriots losing their grip on AFC East title?
Not since the Patriots put a stranglehold on the division that's produced a run of nine division titles - interrupted only by knee reconstruction for the star quarterback - has there been a real sense that someone else might rip those hats, those T-shirts, that home playoff date away from them. But with Brady's offense struggling, with the defense depleted by injuries, and with the Jets having beat them last week, there are suddenly questions about just how strong a grip New England really has at this point.
It's not that the Dolphins are playing particularly well. They've dropped three in a row since a 3-0 start, and have turned the ball over seven times in that span. But this isn't about them. It's not about the Jets, despite their 4-3 record, or about the Bills, who are still hanging around at 3-4.
"I've never beat the Patriots my entire career," offensive guard Richie Incognito, who is 0-8 lifetime against New England, said early in the week. "It's something I'm hungry for. I told the guys, we've got to make up our mind early in the week to beat these guys. We've got to make up our mind right now, have a good week of preparation and go up there and give them our best shot."
"What we hope we're going to be is a team that will get better every day, every week - that our best football is in front of us. That's what we're trying to do," coach Bill Belichick said. "We'll see. There's a long way to go. I think things are a long way from being decided. We'll just have to see how it all plays out in 2013."
Dave D'Onofrio covers the Patriots for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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