Why the New England Patriots Will Coast to the AFC East Title

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent INovember 18, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 13:  Tom Brady #10 of the New England Patriots against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

This past Sunday, the New England Patriots put on their most impressive performance since Week 5—the last time they played the New York Jets.

The Pats were able to put together the offensive performance that we are used to seeing from Tom Brady and company. The most surprising part of the game was the Patriots defense stepping up for the first time in weeks.

The Jets aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut, but there have been times this season where it looked like I could complete passes against New England's secondary. Any signs of improvement—considering how banged up that defense is—are always positive.  

Most importantly, this win gave the Patriots full control of the AFC East. 

While both the Bills and Jets are still in play for the division crown, New England appears to be in the best shape heading down the stretch. 

The Patriots' opponents for the rest of the season have a combined record of 21-43. The Pats will be going up against some of the worst defenses in the NFL. On top of that, they will be facing some miserable offenses, including the Colts and Redskins

If the team we saw on the field Sunday is the team that shows up for the rest of the year, I would not bet against the Patriots winning out this season. 

I know that anything can happen in a football game and upsets do happen, but if they are playing to their maximum potential, the Patriots should not lose to any of the teams remaining on their schedule. 

Their two biggest tests remaining will be the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills. However, both of those "tests" may be easier than they look on paper.

Now I know after watching the Patriots secondary get abused all season, a matchup against DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick sounds frightening.

Don't panic just yet, Patriots fans.

The Eagles offense has not been nearly as good as it was last year. Vick is banged up and Jackson is struggling with off-the-field issues. Most importantly, that Eagles secondary that looks so tough on paper has been disappointing. 

Brady and company shouldn't have too much trouble putting up points, so this one may come down to a shootout. My money is always on Brady in that case.

The Bills are responsible for one of the Patriots' three losses this season. Buffalo squeaked out a win over the Patriots after a questionable pass interference call gave them great field position. 

Yet after that scorching hot start, the Bills have slowed dramatically. The Patriots won't play them until Week 17 and the game will be at Gillette Stadium. By then, I imagine that what little magic the Bills were running on at the beginning of the year will be gone. 

The AFC is completely up in the air right now, with Matt Schaub going down for the year and Ben Roethlisberger now banged up. It is really anyone's conference to take at this point. 

While question marks remain about who will capture the No. 1 seed and the first-round bye in the conference, I wouldn't put my money on anyone other than the Patriots in the AFC East.