Patriots in the driver's seat of AFC East


Patriots in the driver's seat of AFC East

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.

Price struggles in third inning, but otherwise shines in first start


Price struggles in third inning, but otherwise shines in first start

CHICAGO -- Everything was going smoothly until the No. 9 hitter.

Protecting a 1-0 lead in the third inning Monday in his first start of 2017, David Price walked two straight batters with none on and one out in the third inning. Ninth-place hitter Adam Engel walked, as did leadoff man Tim Anderson -- who had drawn just four walks in 181 plate appearances entering the game.

Price, whose command was in question coming off just two rehab starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, immediately paid for the consecutive free passes.

Melky Cabrera jumped on Price's first pitch, a middle-in fastball, for a three-run homer and a 3-1 lead.

The Sox got Price two runs back in the top of the fourth inning, giving him something of a fresh slate with a tie game at 3-3. He took advantage of the second chance, striking out two of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the inning and keeping the game tied, and was rewarded when Mookie Betts homered to lead off the fifth and put the Red Sox back on top, 4-3.

Back from an elbow injury, Price was impressive out of the gate in his first major league game since last year's playoffs. He struck out Anderson to begin his season and needed just 14 pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning.

The lefty touched 96 mph on the final pitch of the first inning, which produced an easy groundout to shortstop from first baseman Jose Abreu.

Price was staked to a 1-0 lead before he threw a pitch.

Betts' leadoff double against Chicago's David Holmberg gave way to a run thanks to some great Betts base running. He took third base on Dustin Pedroia's ground out and then scored on a foul pop up that Abreu, the first baseman, snagged in foul territory with a basket catch — a rare sacrifice fly to the first baseman.

Home runs were a big problem for Price last year. So too was the third inning, when he had a 6.03 ERA.

Pedroia lifted in second inning after hurting wrist in collision


Pedroia lifted in second inning after hurting wrist in collision

CHICAGO -- Injury scares are finding Dustin Pedroia in all the wrong places.

The Red Sox second baseman was pulled in the second inning Monday afternoon against the White Sox because of a left wrist sprain, an injury he seemed to suffer on a collision running to first base in the top of the first inning.

He and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu converged on the bag at the same time on a grounder to Abreu, and Pedroia tumbled over Abreu

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.