Devin McCourty said it best earlier in the season when he urged his team on prior to their match-up against the Jets, saying that it was time for he and his team to dominate the division, “like we do every year”.
Now here they are, one game away from clinching the Division for the ninth straight season. It’s a familiar situation for a team that once again sits at 10-2 and in position to end the year for their three rival teams weeks before Christmas. But winning the Division is just the first step in a mission that is far from over for a team with much loftier goals.
“You know what’s at stake,” said McCourty this week. “You’d be lying if you say you don’t know what’s there. That’s the reason we play games, to try to win championships. So I never take that for granted.”
The Bills have a chance to drag it out a little longer if they can beat the Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday, which will give them an opportunity to fly back to upstate New York and crowd around the television Monday night and gleefully root for Miami. But if Buffalo loses, the Patriots will clinch the title before they even step on the field down in South Florida.
It’s the annual roller-coaster Bills fans ride this time of year and they’re fortunate the ride is even still going. All they’re likely hoping for now is an opportunity to see their grudge-ridden group get another shot at playing one more meaningful head-to-head game their hated rival on Christmas Eve hoping the Patriots don’t do what they’re probably going to do.
McCourty and the Patriots can clinch the AFC East Sunday
But If New England wins, the race for the division is over. They’ll earn their first hat and T-Shirt of 2017 before turning the page and getting ready for a battle against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has already become one of the most anticipated games of the season. The stakes will be high, as the winner will likely decide the top seed in the AFC, giving a huge advantage to whichever club ends up with the advantage of playing at home throughout.
McCourty’s aware of what’s on the line. This is the time of year where the games matter a little more and the focus needs to be even tighter. With the Division race all but over, the Patriots’ number one priority is on something bigger, with the goal of being one of the teams playing in February. It’s a long road and the month of December usually decides whether or not the road to Minnesota for the AFC will go through Gillette Stadium.
“The opportunity to get to play for a championship is tough,” said McCourty. “We talk about winning in December but obviously you’ve got to do some things right throughout the whole season to have that opportunity. It won’t be — it’s not something we’re going to talk about every day but we know it’s there but we know the only way we get that is by being prepared and going out there and winning a football game.”
It’s been an amazing year. After a rough start for their defense, which has experienced 11 weeks of improvement, McCourty and the Patriots are exactly where they need to be with four games to go. The Dolphins likely won’t go down easy as they’re no stranger to giving the Patriots fits in their home field, but McCourty knows opportunity is knocking, and it’s time to answer the bell.
“They’ll be ready to go,” said McCourty. “We’re going to get their best shot I think in every phase of the game. So we have to be well-prepared in everything we do.”
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary