Tuesday December 03, 2013 | 07:45 PM

The Patriots could clinch a playoff spot and the AFC East title on Sunday, but Bill Belichick isn't allowing himself to think that far ahead.

Askedin a Tuesday conference call about the possibility of clinching on Sunday, Belichick said his, and the team's, only focus is on their next opponent, the Cleveland Browns.

"Really, we're not talking about that,'' he said. "The only thing we can control is how we play against Cleveland. That's really what we need to focus on. Whatever else does or doesn't happen in the league is definitely outside of our control.

"Right now we're just trying to focus on improving, getting ready for the Browns, a team we don't know very well, a team that we have a lof of respect for that has a lot of explosive players. It's going to be a big challenge for us this week to match up against these guys. Hopefully we can go out there and improve and play better and win and whatever else happens, or doesn't happen, we can't worry about that.''

The Patriots can clinch their fifth consecutive AFC East championship a couple of ways Sunday: a New England  win plus a Miami loss or tie gives the Patriots the title; or, a New England tie and Miami loss gives the Patriots the division crown. Miami is at Pittsburgh.

New England can secure a playoff berth, without clinching the division crown, in a couple of ways Sunday: a New England win and a Baltimore loss or tie gives the Patriots a playoff berth; or, a New England tie and Baltimore loss secures a playoff berth. The Ravens are home to Minnesota.


About this Blog

Mike Lowe has covered the New England Patriots since 1999 for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and has had a nice view of their emergence as one of the NFL’s premier franchises.

He’s been at the paper since 1982 and has covered everything from a Little League World Series to the Summer Olympics. He is married to Tracie and they have three children and two grandchildren.

Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeLowePPH.

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