Of last year's eight division champions, only the Patriots were repeat winners from 2010.
And under Belichick, they've finished first nine times, second twice and fifth once, his first year (2000). They won the Super Bowl the following season.
This year, they've won their last five games, continuing a trend of improving as the season goes on. They were 8-0 in the second half of the past two seasons and 3-0 so far this year. Back on Oct. 14, New England was tied with the rest of the division at 3-3. The Patriots now lead Miami by three games, and Buffalo and the New York Jets by four.
"My whole career, high school and college, it seems like the longer the season goes, the better I play," Wilfork said. "Nine years now (in the NFL), the same thing. I just prepare well."
The powerful Wilfork played very well in the Patriots' last game, a 49-19 rout of the Jets on Thanksgiving night. One of his best plays came when he pushed guard Brandon Moore back as Mark Sanchez ran toward them. Sanchez fumbled when he collided with his teammate and safety Steve Gregory picked the ball up and ran for a 32-yard touchdown.
Suddenly, the Patriots led 21-0 just six minutes into the second quarter.
"I haven't paid any attention to that play ever since that game ended," Wilfork said. "I've moved on. We've got games to prepare for. I can't be thinking about one play."
Once the game was over, though, he had something he was eager to savor. He joined Brady and Gregory in biting into turkey legs before a national audience — a television tradition reserved for stars of Thanksgiving games.
"I just thought about eating, that's all," Wilfork said with a smile. "It actually tasted pretty good, to be honest with you, but it was cold. But it didn't matter at that point. You're starving. You're hungry. You got a turkey in front of you. It's Thanksgiving. You have to eat it."
And he didn't have to worry about getting food stains on a brand new championship T-shirt.
That could happen on Sunday.
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