Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Telling soundbite from the Patriots’ locker room after the team’s win over Oakland last Sunday, when quarterback Tom Brady says to former New York Jets James Ihedigbo and Shaun Ellis, “You’re one of us now!” This was captured by Patriots All-Access and the thing that stood out to me was how the Patriots’ victory wasn’t 15 minutes old and already Brady was geared up for today’s game against the Jets.
2. For all the talk about the Jets’ ground-and-pound approach, I think they’d be playing into the Patriots’ hands by taking that hard-nosed approach out of a two-back or two-tight end set. I think the key is going three-wide and getting the Patriots in their sub defense, and running out of that. I’d make the Patriots prove they can stop it, which they haven’t done consistently this year.
3. One of the big differences in the Patriots’ revamped defense is how defensive lineman Vince Wilfork has become more of a three-down player. He’s been charted on the field for 86.6 percent of the team’s snaps this year. Through four games last year, the number was 68.1 percent.
4. The Titans are one of the NFL’s early-season surprises, but before I jump aboard, I want to see if they can beat the banged-up Steelers in Pittsburgh today. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been a solid pick-up for them.
5. This is the first weekend in which teams have byes, and the Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams and Redskins are idle. From a New England perspective, it’s notable that the Cowboys are part of that mix, as they have two weeks to get ready for next weekend’s game against the Patriots.
6. Between the Lions hosting the Bears on Monday night, and the Tigers in the American League Championship, the city of Detroit has a good chunk of the spotlight this week. The Monday night Lions game is the only prime-time contest for the Lions, although they’d be a prime candidate to get flexed into prime-time later in the year if they keep up their winning ways. One possibility would be a Lions at Saints game Dec. 4, subbing in for Patriots-Colts.
7. The Patriots’ defense has been scrutinized through four games and many would say rightfully so. I wonder if the Packers, ranked 31st in passing yards allowed per game, are taking the same type of heat in Green Bay.
8. Patriots receiver Wes Welker is off to a sizzling start (40 catches, 616 receiving yards), and with eight receptions and 89 receiving yards today, he can record the most receptions and receiving yards through a team’s first five games of a season. Any guesses on whose record he’d break? If you said T.J. Houshmandzadeh (47 catches in 2007 with Bengals) and Charley Hennigan (704 yards in 1961 with Houston), you are correct.
9. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has recently switched back to his old helmet after trying a new one earlier in the year. The challenge for Brady is balancing safety (newer helmets provide more) and comfort (he’s grown used to the old one and likes its facemask better). It’s a work in progress.
10. Jerome Boger is assigned to referee today’s game between the Patriots and Jets. His crew had the controversial non-fumble call on Giants receiver Victor Cruz last week.
11. Tedy Bruschi has quite a few tackles on his resume, but he’s looking to tackle a new challenge today in the Boston half marathon. Good luck, Tedy.