Even on a Sunday in which the Patriots didn't take the field, they still got good news regarding the AFC East race.
Buffalo shocked Miami at Orchard Park, 31-14, sending the Dolphins to 5-6. At this point, the Patriots lead the division with a 7-3 record, while Miami and New York are two-and-a-half games back at 5-6, while the Bills bring up the rear at 4-7.
The surprising result takes some of the importance off of the Saints matchup tomorrow night. Had Miami done what was expected and won, New England would have had to give New Orleans its first defeat in order to avoid having the Dec. 6 rematch in South Florida be for first place in the division.
Now, even if New England loses at New Orleans, they'll still have a comfortable lead (two games) with five games left. The Patriots could clinch the division with an 11-5 mark, which would allow for two losses to a group of opponents including the Saints (10-0), Dolphins (5-6), Bills (4-7), Jaguars (6-5) and Texans (6-5).
Of course, that doesn't make a victory in the Superdome any less attractive.