FOXBORO -- As ugly as it was, the Patriots still came away from Sunday's 37-31 win over the Bills one step closer to an AFC East division title. Their 6-3 record (3-0 in the division) puts them in the driver's seat to win the AFC East for the fourth straight season.
"It wasn't pretty," Deion Branch said afterward. "But we'll take the 'W.' "
With it, the Patriots gave themselves some cushion.
New England's closest competition in the division, Miami, fell to 4-5 overall (1-1 in the division) after their 37-3 loss to the Titans on Sunday.
The Jets also lost on Sunday, dropping their game against the Seahawks, 28-7. Rex Ryan's bunch is now 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the division.
The Bills are 3-6 overall and 0-3 in the division after Sunday's game with the Patriots, and they know the lights are dimming quickly on their playoff hopes.
"We only got seven left games now," Bills defensive end Mario Williams said. "Pretty much get that Wild Card spot or whatever. I haven't looked at it. I don't even know if that's the right terminology to say. For us to get to where we wanna go, we gotta win out pretty much. We can't keep losing like this."
New England still has two games remaining with Miami, and one game left with the Jets on Thanksgiving.
Given the inconsistency of their divisional competition, however, it's looking more and more like the question is not if the Patriots will win the AFC East, but what their playoff seed will be when they do.