Yet, they'll need some help, and because of that, they didn't sound overly ecstatic about the chance to wear some new laundry Sunday in Washington. If the Patriots beat the Redskins and the Jets lose at home to the Chiefs, the Pats will get to break out the hats and T-shirts that signify another AFC East championship.
"We're going to focus on the Redskins. That's a good football team," Patriots right guard Brian Waters said after Sunday's 31-24 victory against the Colts. "We could care less about all of those things. Those things will take care of themselves if we take care of our business."
There was a moment Sunday when it looked like the Patriots could take control of their own destiny for next week. The Jets erased a fourth-quarter deficit against the Redskins to run away with a 34-19 victory, though.
Even so, the Patriots' magic number for the division crown is two with four games remaining because they've already clinched the tiebreaker with the Jets as a result of their season sweep. If the Patriots win the division, they're guaranteed a home game to open the playoffs, but that's still not much of a concern at this point.
"To be honest with you, we're all about the next game," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "We're not really concerned about what the Jets are doing. We're concerned about what we're doing, and that's to win next week."
There were a handful of reasons for the Patriots' lack of enthusiasm Sunday. First, their aspirations are much higher than the division title, as they've still got the inside track on one of the top-two playoff seeds, which would come with a first-round bye.
Second, with four games remaining, the Patriots know it's impossible to start thinking about the playoffs.
And finally, they weren't in a great mood after the victory against the Colts because they were an onside kick away from potentially squandering a 28-point fourth-quarter lead.
Because of that, the division title might have been the last thing on their minds, especially since Bill Belichick didn't even give them a Victory Monday. Therefore, there was much more of a businesslike feel inside the locker room after the game than an air of celebration.
"I really don't even think about it," linebacker Rob Ninkovich said of the division title. "We played this game, we've got to watch the tape, see the things that we didn't do right, move on and play Washington."
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