By: Bob George/
December 01, 2002

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You're not quite sure what to make of this season, are you?

You've had so much dumped in your lap. A team that looks invincible. A team that can't stop the run. A team that has reverted to the Pete Carroll days. A team that can't beat good teams. A team that braved a three-game road trip. A team that has looked more bad than good recently, and yet controls its destiny to repeat as AFC East champs.

This writer recently ran off some projected win results for all the contending AFC teams, and amazingly had the Patriots coming out as the two seed once again this year. Part of this projection, unfortunately, is the Patriots losing the AFC Championship Game because they'd have to go to Denver and try to return to the Super Bowl in a stadium that is next to impossible for them to win in.

Here is how our scenario played out:

2002 Remaining Games -- AFC Contenders Miami Jets Buf Indy Denver Oak SD ----- ---- --- ---- ------ --- -- @Buf W* @Oak L& Mia L* Hou W~ @SD L~ NYJ W& Den W~ Chi W Den L @NE L @Ten L @NYJ W @SD W Oak L Oak W @Chi W SD W @Cle W KC W @Mia L @Buf L @Minn L @NE L @GB L NYG W @Oak W Den L @KC L @NE L GB L Cin W Jax W Arz W KC W Sea W 10-6 7-9 7-9 11-5 11-5 10-6 9-7 * -- actual game result was Buffalo defeating Miami & -- teams play Monday night ~ -- actual game results on Sunday were correct

In this scenario, assuming NE wins out (11-5), Patriots win the AFC East. Denver gets 1 seed over NE based on head to head. NE gets 2 seed over Indy based on better record versus common opponents (3-2 vs. 1-4). We project Pittsburgh at 10-5-1, so Indy gets 3 and Pittsburgh 4. Miami gets 5 over Oakland based on head to head. The Patriots wind up having to play for the AFC title in Denver.

But this scenario took a hit today, and we'll begin our good news/bad news with…

Good News: San Diego, and not Denver, might have the inside track to the AFC West.

Bad News: San Diego also owns the tiebreaker over New England.

Good News: Could mean uncomplicated travel plans for the Patriots in January.

Bad News: Unless the Patriots play in San Diego like they did in September.

More Bad News: We still projected Denver to win the AFC West despite losing to the Bolts on Sunday.

Good News: The Patriots are now tied with Miami thanks to them losing today, and it makes the Patriot road to the AFC East title a little easier now because we projected Miami to win today.

Bad News: Miami lost to Buffalo. Buffalo's draft position went from 11 to 15.

Good News: A Jet loss Monday night is terrific, and we project that to happen.

Bad News: A Raider win is bad for the Patriots, as the Raiders also hold that darned tiebreaker with the Patriots.

Good News: The Patriots have won four of their last five games to negate the four-game losing streak.

Bad News: The combined record of the teams the Patriots beat in this stretch is 15-33.

Worse News: The combined record of the teams the Patriots have lost to is 38-21.

Better News: The combined record of the four remaining Patriot opponents is 26-21, and three of them are in the division.

Good News: Tom Brady isn't making anyone around here regret the trading of Drew Bledsoe.

Bad News: Will that feeling change on Sunday?

Good News: Bill Belichick says that this year's squad is better than last year's.

Bad News: If that be the case, then why is the record (7-5) the same and not better?

Good News: The Patriots are 2-0 in red uniforms with Pat Patriot since the big uniform change of 1993.

Bad News: You probably won't see Pat again until the year 2008.

Bad News: The AFC is gunning hard for the Patriots this year, them being the defending champions.

Good News: Two teams have eight wins: Indianapolis and San Diego. Translation: The conference is wide open.

Bad News: Unless Denver gets home field like we think they will.

Good News: Three of the final four games are at home for the Patriots.

Bad News: Opponents greatly prefer Gillette Stadium to Foxborough Stadium, and are playing the Patriots a lot tougher than last year.

Good News: The Patriots won their first Thanksgiving Day game in franchise history.

Great News: The team now has ten days to prepare for Drew Bledsoe.

Bad News: Half of those days (or so it seems), the Patriots will be off somewhere stuffing themselves with turkey.

Good News: The Patriot coaching staff prefers pizza to turkey, and spending days off at the office and not at home.

Good News: By now, all that food you ate has finally digested, and you can now head back to your gym to work all those calories off.

Bad News: The clock is ticking on them shopping days.