The New England Patriots once again are the kings of the AFC East.

With a 16-3 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the Patriots clinched their NFL-record eighth consecutive division title and a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.

New England has won the AFC East in 14 of the last 15 seasons, and it hasn’t been forced to play a wild-card playoff game since 2009.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. “It’s a lot of hard work going all the way back to offseason program, OTAs, training camp, a lot of tough games. We’ve won a lot of games on the road, which is always hard to do. This was another one.

“We still have more we can accomplish and our goals can now be reset, but this is the first one — to win the division — so that is definitely something to be proud of, something we accomplished. As I said, we can reset and try to accomplish more this year.”

The Patriots found the end zone just once in the game — a 1-yard plunge by LeGarrette Blount — but prevailed thanks to a dominant defensive effort that included four sacks, one interception and a game-sealing fumble recovery.

Denver didn’t score a single point after the first quarter and went three-and-out on each of its first five possessions of the second half.

The Patriots will host the New York Jets on Saturday before closing out the regular season Jan. 1 at Miami.

Thumbnail photo via Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports Images