7:00 AM ET
Close ESPN Staff Writer Covered Patriots since 1997 Joined ESPN in 2009
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. to ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The torch has been passed. Finally.
The New England Patriots‘ stranglehold on the AFC East is over, and it happened earlier in the season than many anticipated. The Buffalo Bills (11-3) clinched the division title for the first time since 1995 in Week 15, wrapping it up before Monday’s showdown with the Patriots (6-8) at Gillette Stadium (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Patriots had won 11 straight division titles from 2009 to 2019, the longest streak in NFL history. It wasn’t close. The Los Angeles Rams (1973-79) are second with seven straight titles.
Since coach Bill Belichick’s second season in New England (2001), the Patriots have posted a 93-27 record in division play, which is the best in the NFL. And since realignment in 2002, the Patriots won 16 AFC East titles. Again, an NFL best.
Buffalo’s fortunes changed when it hired Sean McDermott as coach in 2017, pairing him with general manager Brandon Beane.
“I’d say [the Bills have] really gotten better