Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. The Patriots have played some of their best football when they have an “us-against-the-world” mindset. I sensed that developing in the locker room this week when players were asking reporters who they were picking Monday night.
2. Perhaps the best reminder of why the importance of special teams shouldn’t be overlooked is this year’s San Diego Chargers (1-2). They are first in the NFL in total yards on offense, and fourth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed, but they’ve allowed a punt return for a touchdown (the Chiefs’ Dexter McCluster) and two kickoff returns for a touchdown (the Seahawks’ Leon Washington). They lost each of those games by a touchdown.
3. For a Green Bay Packers team that has been a chic Super Bowl pick, this one statistic stands out through three games: 26 accepted penalties, one of the highest totals in the NFL.
4. When the Patriots signed running back Thomas Clayton off the Browns’ practice squad on Thursday, they inked him to a two-year deal, through 2011. This was an example of how the team not only filled a short-term need, but also was thinking ahead to 2011 with running backs Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk all in the final year of their contracts this year.
5. At the same time, one now wonders if the Patriots pulled the trigger too quickly on trading Laurence Maroney because he was a solid insurance policy for 2010. The risk was that their veteran backs would stay healthy this season. Since the trade, Taylor (toe injury) and Faulk (torn ACL) have been injured.
6. With a win on Monday night, Tom Brady would become the fastest quarterback in NFL history to record 100 career regular-wins by a starter. It’s Brady’s 131st regular-season start.
7. Open dates are now part of the NFL schedule, with the Chiefs, Cowboys, Vikings and Buccaneers off this week. The Chiefs (3-0) are one of the NFL’s surprise teams, although we’ll find out more about them after the off week, when they visit the Colts and Texans.
8. The Patriots sometimes pay practice squad players more than the minimum, and such is the case with offensive tackle Steve Maneri, who will earn $150,000. Maneri was waived last week, but said he was committed to returning to the Patriots as he felt it was the right place for him to develop under coach Dante Scarnecchia.
9. If BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets the ball more than 20 times Monday night, it’s probably good news for the Patriots. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information tracking, the Patriots have the NFL’s best record since 2001 when one running back has more than 20 carries in a game – at 42-1.
10. It’s a great week for the Patriots to be playing on Monday, opening up a Sunday to watch games around the NFL. Baltimore at Pittsburgh (1 p.m.) and Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb’s return to Philadelphia (4:15 p.m.) highlight the schedule.