The Patriots and Red Sox each have one win this September.
The second Sunday's 34-13 Patriots win over the Titans concluded, the Patriots had spent more time in first place during their 2012 season than the Red Sox will in their disaster of a campaign.
The Patriots aren't perfect, of course. For all we know the Titans will finish 3-13. Maybe Stevan Ridley isn't a true No. 1 back. Maybe Chandler Jones will be a bust. Maybe the run defense won't be as dominant as we saw on Sunday (Chris Johnson had a career-worst four yards on 11 carries -- Aaron Hernandez had more in his one carry). Maybe Tom Brady's nose will never be the same and Rob Gronkowski has lost the ability to spike forever.
All possible, I suppose. But it's impossible to overstate the different position the Red Sox and Patriots find themselves in on Sept. 10, 2012.
One is the model franchise of their sport, the other the laughingstock of theirs.
Yup, the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since 2004. And sure, the two Super Bowl losses to Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are hits on Bill Belichick and Tom Brady when the two are ranked on a historical scale.
But they have direction, they have a plan, they have a clear, obvious line of power structure, they have zero drama that gets out to the public, they have stars that play like stars, they have young players that contribute, they have role players that do their jobs, they have no contracts that hang over the franchise (to be fair, guaranteed vs. non-guaranteed is not an insignificant factor), they have firm control of the public relations battle, they don't leak like 40,000 sieves to the media, they don't constantly insult your intelligence, they don't threaten to punch out talk show hosts and the players don't text the owners when the temperature in the locker room gets a little uncomfortable.
Look, Patriots 34, Titans 13 isn't going to go down as one of the 500 most meaningful victories in franchise history. You and I will have forgotten about it by Week 5. But you saw more reasons for optimism in those 60 minutes than you have from the Red Sox over the last calendar year. That's not an exaggeration. Think about it -- Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Ridley, Tavon Wilson, Brandon Lloyd (though I do blame him on the deep ball from Brady -- if he keeps running he makes that play), Gronkowski seemingly OK after ankle surgery and The Summer of Gronk and hints that the breakout season we've been told is coming from Aaron Hernandez could be upon us.
In the big picture, just another win for a team that should roll in their division (raise your hand if you a) now buy into the Jets or b) still buy into the Bills) and will probably win 12 or 13 games and host at least one postseason game. Yawn and wake me in January could be the default reaction, I suppose. Super Bowl or Bust and all that.
But then you turn your eyes to Fenway, and maybe it's easier to appreciate an organization that hasn't won a title in seven years and might not again this season but at least still knows to stay in position for success, doesn't completely crumble when adversity shows up. When Mike Aviles popped out to end the game on Sunday the Red Sox -- the Boston Red Sox, a team with the best record in baseball just over 12 months ago, a team that started the season with a budget not far from $200 million dollars -- dropped to 63-78 on the season (that would be 70-98 since last September 1 and 15 games under .500 for the first time in 20 years), last place in the division, 16.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and 15.5 games out of the second wild card. If there were eight wild card teams this year the Red Sox would currently be on the outside. The Kansas City Royals have a better record.
The season is unique in that it has been a total wipeout. There hasn't been a high note, a real peak, nothing to build on. Ben Cherington, Larry Lucchino, John Henry, Bobby Valentine (and don't forget Theo Epstein) have combined to waste a year of Dustin Pedroia, a year of David Ortiz, a year that fans will never get back (I'm guessing there will be no refunds).
The highlight has been giving away players, being granted a bailout by the idiots running the Dodgers (and Henry's pal Uncle Bud Selig, who looked the other way when it was fair to at least ask if this was a trade made only for financial reasons, a deal that the Sox absolutely had to make). A deal that cost you Gonzalez and Crawford -- the foundation of the Greatest Team Ever just a year and a half ago -- and brought back not a single major-league player of any real value is your gold, silver and bronze winner for top moment of 2012.
The Sox season -- over for months in reality -- will officially be covered in dirt in a couple of weeks. There will be no more Bobby Valentine to kick around, no more Daisuke Matsuzaka, no more hideous and truly insulting spin from Henry and Lucchino, no more updates on John Lackey, no more sellout announcements that not a single human being cares about or believes, no more Aaron Cook, no more terrible at-bats from Ryan Lavarnway and Jose Iglesias, no more players telling us how much they respect a manger they tried desperately and pathetically to get fired.
Amateur hour will be over, at least for a few months. The stench will still linger, but it won't be three inches from your face.
And the Patriots will take over. Brady, Belichick, Wilfork and the rest. Instead of Dice-K missing months with a knot in his neck you'll get Logan Mankins playing a full season with a torn ACL. Wes Welker caught three passes Sunday in a contact year. Think he's going to storm into Belichick's office and pull an Alfredo Aceves? Even if he did you'll never hear about it. The Patriots can be vanilla on vanilla with a side of vanilla, the Patriots will never come close to giving away state secrets, the Patriots have no interest in filling up segments for talk shows or winning any battles for front or back pages. You'll get nothing and like it. And in this case you'll really like it. After a year of Lucchino, Henry and Valentine, It Is What It Is has never sounded so good.
Here's what you get: Winning and professionalism.