Philbin: Pats a cut above in AFC East

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When asked about the current state of the AFC East division, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin reflected on his days growing up in Western Massachusetts.

The Patriots weren't very good, which of course, isn't the case now.

Over the last 11 years, New England has a 57-15 record in AFC East play and has won nine division titles; 2002 and 2008 were the lone years they didn't accomplish the feat over that span.

"I'm familiar with having watched a lot of games growing up over the years, watching the AFC East, and those days you couldn't get any game on television like you can these days. To watch the NFL, that's what you saw when you were in Springfield, Massachusetts," Philbin said on a Wednesday conference call, before expounding on some of his current thoughts.

"I think it's a good competitive division. We have rivalries with all three teams. I think three of us are a work in progress at this stage and one team is playing very, very well."

That one team is the Patriots, who can clinch another division championship with a win over the Dolphins on Sunday.

Philbin, in his first season as Dolphins coach, was asked what puts the Patriots (8-3) in that category compared to other teams, such as his Dolphins (5-6).

"Plus-24 is what I see," Philbin said, citing the Patriots' league-leading turnover differential (32 takeaways, 8 giveaways). "That's a great place to start if you want to talk about winning football games in the National Football League. It's a great credit to their players and coaches. These guys do a fanastic job. We're minus-10, that's not very good. They're plus-24, that's outstanding. That's a tremendous place to build your program around. That's the one thing that jumps out at me."