FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — For just the fourth time since Bill Belichick became Patriots coach in 2000, New England won’t end the season as AFC East champions.

The Buffalo Bills improved to 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the conference with their 26-15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. It eliminated the hopes of New England (6-7, 5-4) to extend its NFL-record run of 11 straight division titles. The Los Angeles Rams own the NFL’s second-longest division streak, earning seven straight titles from 1973-79.

The Bills also beat New England 24-21 in Buffalo last month, though with their records now, the Patriots can’t catch Buffalo in the standings. The last time the Patriots failed to win the division was 2008, when Tom Brady suffered a season-ending injury in the opener.

This will also be the first time since Belichick’s first season in New England in 2000 that an AFC East foe has finished with more victories than the Patriots. In 2008, both New England and Miami were 11-5, but the Dolphins won the division on a tiebreaker, and the Patriots missed a wild-card spot by losing other tiebreakers.

The Jets and Patriots both finished 9-7 in 2002, with New York taking the division title.

New England is still mathematically alive to extend its league-record 11 consecutive playoff berths, but will need lots of help over the remainder of the season to do so.

The Patriots won six Super Bowls, nine AFC titles and 17 division championships after Brady took over as starting quarterback in 2001. In many of those years, they virtually cruised into the postseason.

Since last missing the playoffs in 2008, their average margin in the division has been more than three games, and in none of those seasons had the division title been up for grabs in the final week of the season.

CAM NEWTON, in a radio appearance on Monday, said he’s never practiced as hard as he has in New England in his 20-plus years of playing football.

“My practice habits this year have been more intensified than any other time in my life,” Newton said. “I’ve been playing this game since I was six, seven years old and I’ve never cared about practice as much as I’ve cared about practice since I’ve been in New England.

“From watching film, to caring about each and every rep, to working out, taking on the things that you have to do on and off the field, from nutrition to rehab and everything else. For our record to be 6-7 right now, yeah, it’s extremely frustrating. But with three games left in the fold what am I going to, stop my preparation? No! If anything else you’re going to try to do other things to try to find ways to grit and grind and win out. What I do know about this franchise and this city and the expectation is, that’s the way you do it. You’ve gotta just find ways to win and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

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