The New England Patriots still rule the AFC — deal with it

As it stands now, all roads to the Super Bowl pass through Foxboro

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Emperor Palpatine
Emperor Palpatine
Photo: AP

Bill Belichick is the AFC’s Thanos. He’s inevitable.

With the world watching a Monday Night Football matchup between two teams that thrive in frigid temperatures, it almost made too much sense that the Patriots and Bills played in a snow globe in a battle for the top of the AFC East, and the conference as a whole.

Two was the magic number of the night, as New England’s decision to go for a two-point conversion early in the game wound up giving it a cushion it could rest on for the duration of the night. Two is also the number of wins New England had before this seven-game winning streak began that has them 9-4 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC — which means it is two games ahead of the Bills. Two is also the number of Mac Jones completions on three passes for 19 yards.

“We played kind of the way we felt like we needed to play to win. In the end, we scored enough points,” Belichick told reporters after the game

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With five weeks left before the start of the postseason, it would be idiotic for Patriots fans — like me — to think that this thing is completely sown up in a conference that includes the Titans, Ravens, Chiefs, Chargers — and Bills — in the rearview mirror.

But…

New England is 7-1 against the AFC this season, and the first team in the conference to reach nine wins — despite overcoming a friendly whistle from the referees in Buffalo.

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As much as I understand why so many people hate the Patriots, it’s hard to deny how this season has been Belichick’s best example of why he’s the greatest football coach ever, as he’s doing this with a rookie QB and an offense that’s far from sexy. The combination of a great defense, a consistent running game, and a dependable kicker can take you a long way. And to think, the Patriots could be even further ahead in the AFC if they don’t lose an overtime thriller to the Cowboys in October or fall to Tom Brady and the Bucs by a few inches in Week 4.

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Last season, the Patriots were 7-9 and got swept by Buffalo as the Bills were 13-3 in the regular season before losing in the AFC title game to Kansas City. After Tampa Bay beat the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady shared the Madden 22 cover. For Patriots fans it was salt in the wound, as the cover featured the quarterback that was once theirs and the phenom that was deemed the new face of the AFC.

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But, is that still the case?

Monday night’s results mean that Mac Jones currently has more wins this season than Mahomes, while he’s tied at 9 with Brady.

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Never — ever — count the Patriots out.