The New England Patriots are 0-1. The Dolphins, due to Hurricane Irma, have had their week 1 game postponed to week 11, giving Miami a week 1 bye. And the Jets and Bills square off in Buffalo today. The winner of that game will therefore be alone in first place in the division. Which is pretty unusual in the Tom Brady era.
The last time that Buffalo was alone in first place in the AFC East was after week 2 of the 2014 season, when the Bills were 2-0 and the rest of the division was 1-1. Before that, the last time was week 3 of 2011, and other than a few weeks during 2008 (the year Miami won the division and Matt Cassel started 15 games for New England), the only other times since 2001 were after the first two weeks of the 2003 season.
For the Jets, it’s been even longer. New York was last alone in first place in the division after week 6 of the 2010 season, when the Jets were 5-1 and the Patriots were 4-2. Since 2002, the only times the Jets have been alone in first place were weeks 11-13 of the 2008 season, weeks 2 and 3 of the 2009 season, and weeks 5 and 6 of the 2010 season.
Looking ahead to week 2, the Bills travel to Carolina while the Jets head to Oakland. So there’s a very good chance the winner of the Jets/Bills game will be 1-1 next week, and New England (playing in New Orleans) will either be 1-1 or 0-2. That would allow the Dolphins, with a win over the Chargers in the first NFL regular season game at the StubHub Center, to be alone in first place in the division. The last time that happened? Week 2 of the 2010 season, and before that, week 4 of the 2005 season! Yes, there has been exactly one week in the last 11 years where Miami was alone in first place (in 2008, the Dolphins never achieved that status, despite winning the division on a tiebreaker).
The graph below shows how many games above .500 each team in the AFC East after each week of the NFL season for the 2001 through 2016 seasons. The Bills and the Patriots share blue and red as their primary colors, but that’s not a huge issue in this chart.
Here’s a remarkable note: the Patriots have at least shared first place in the AFC East in every week since week 2 of the 2014 season. And the last time the Patriots did not at least share first place in the division after week 3 of a season was back in 2010.