As has been the case for the last month, the Patriots (10-5) continue to win and continue to hope things will fall into place on the final weekend for New England to earn its sixth straight postseason berth.
But as has been the case all along over the last month, Bill Belichick's troops still don't control their own fate heading into Sunday's meeting with the Bills in Buffalo.
By taking care of business in last Sunday's 47-7 wintry win over the Cardinals at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots put together their first three-game winning streak of the season at a time when they needed it most in this final month of must-win games. A win this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium would be the final step that New England controls in its march toward January. After that the defending AFC champs will just have to watch and wait.
One might think that lack of control would resonate in frustration these days in New England. But in the end, the Patriots know they are in the situation they are in because of what they've done, as a whole, throughout the season.
"We have no one to be frustrated with but ourselves," guard Logan Mankins said. "We lost five games. That's all on us. If we wouldn't have lost those we wouldn't have anything to worry about."
Assuming it takes care of its business once again, New England could still win a wild card if the Ravens (10-5) fall at home against the Jaguars. It can still win the AFC East if the Jets (9-6) defeat the Dolphins (10-5) on Sunday at the Meadowlands.
But that's to worry about at around 4 p.m. on Sunday, when their regular-season work officially comes to a close in upstate New York.
"We've had a good couple weeks and started to string some together," Mankins said. "Hopefully we can continue it ... if we get into the playoffs, continue it into there."
Time, and two other AFC teams will decide that.
"It's crazy how it's coming down in the AFC. That's how strong this conference is," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "Really that's how strong the whole league is. That's how narrow the margin is for the competitive line. This is a completion league. One slip up, one play, Bill (Belichick) always tells us could cost you a season. Hopefully it hasn't cost us ours yet."
For another week, the final week, hope remains alive in New England.
--SS James Sanders missed his second straight game with what the team lists as an abdomen injury. The fourth-year starter had started the first 13 games of the season in the New England secondary. DB Lewis Sanders once again filled in for James Sanders in the starting lineup.
--T Matt Light returned to action in the start against Arizona despite a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the previous week's win in Oakland. Light sat out the first two days of practice last week leading up to the game with Arizona, but had returned on a limited basis on Friday, was listed as questionable on the injury report before an apparent game-time decision to give it a go.
--LB Gary Guyton, a key member of New England's defense on passing downs, led the rest of New England's inactives against Arizona. Guyton injured his ankle the previous week in Oakland and tried to give it a go during warm-ups but was a game-time scratch. The rest of the Patriots inactives included emergency QB Matt Gutierrez, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, G/C Dan Connolly, T Wesley Britt and G Billy Yates.
--T Russ Hochstein saw plenty of reps as an eligible receiver at both fullback and tight end in New England's power running sets in the win over Arizona.
--LB Junior Seau started at inside linebacker against the Cards, just his third game in uniform since re-joining the Patriots. He led New England with a team-high seven tackles.
--RB LaMont Jordan found the end zone for short scoring runs twice in the first quarter to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead on the way to the blowout of the Cardinals. Jordan, who's found the end zone three times in two weeks, finished with a game-high 20 carries for 78 yards and the two touchdowns.
--QB Matt Cassel had another impressive effort in Sunday's blowout of the Cardinals, this one in heavy snow. In his first career start in such conditions, Cassel threw for 345 yards on 20 of 36 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 116.1 passer rating.
Official Game Thread (New England)