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Patriots vs. Rams 2012: New England fans ready for stretch run

Even after some struggles early in the season, the Patriots find themselves in the same position as last year.

Scott Heavey

The New England Patriots went across the Atlantic Ocean to lay a 45-7 beatdown on the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, and they seem to be improving after 1-2 start to the season. Winning four of their past five games has put the Patriots at 5-3 halfway through the regular season, and on top of the AFC East.

Fans should be happy with New England's current state considering the struggles and injuries the team has dealt with. Alec Shane of Patriots blog Pats Pulpit likes where the team is at with an open date coming:

Yesterday's win was a great way to head into the bye week. The Patriots are 5-3, which is exactly where they sat this time last year, and they should have a lot of key players back and healthy once they take the field against the Bills in Week 10. While it would certainly be nice to be sitting at 7-1 right now, which they easily could have been, I'll certainly take it.

The Patriots are clinging to a narrow division lead, as the Dolphins have also shaken off some early-season losses to post a 4-3 record. New England will face Miami twice in their last eight games. The Patriots will have a favorable schedule after the bye week, with two straight games at Gillette Stadium and a visit to the New York Jets before their first meeting with the Dolphins.