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Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Robert Kraft was on the sideline for Saturday night’s Louisiana State/Alabama game. Just a football fan taking in a football game. He went to the LSU/West Virginia game in September and annually goes to a couple of the biggest college games of the year.

2. During the lockout, one line of thinking was that teams with top quarterbacks and coaches – especially those with continuity at those spots – would have the edge. The 49ers’ surprising 6-1 start has undercut that line of thinking. Also, I think the Patriots were hurt more than anticipated from a defensive standpoint.

3. Romeo Crennel’s fiery halftime demeanor was credited by Chiefs players for helping turn their season around (link here). Crennel is in his second season as Chiefs defensive coordinator, and given some of the struggles of the Patriots’ defense, it makes one wonder if the opportunity to bring him back in 2010 should have been explored more aggressively.

4. Running back Matt Forte and the Bears haven’t been able to come to a contract agreement, and from this view, it looks like a situation where the team is using its leverage to its advantage. In New England, this is the type of stuff the Patriots get roasted for, but Forte’s situation is a reminder that this is the way business is done by other teams as well.

5. Defenders Aldon Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul were challenging for scouts to evaluate because they didn’t have a big body of work to dissect in college. But the teams selecting them – the 49ers with Smith (1st round, 7th overall in 2011) and the Giants with Pierre-Paul (1st round, 15th overall in 2010) -- are being rewarded for banking on potential.

6. Steelers safety Troy Polamalu wasn’t penalized or fined for his shoulder/neck tackle of Patriots receiver Wes Welker last Sunday, which from this view, highlights inconsistency in the rules protecting players. The league goes out of its way to protect quarterbacks and defenseless receivers, but once a player is a ballcarrier, almost anything is fair game. Something doesn’t seem right about that.

7. Anyone else thinking the Chargers have a good chance of pulling the upset today at home against the Packers? I want to see how the Packers’ defense (ranked 30th in terms of passing yards allowed per game) holds up against the Chargers’ passing attack in that road environment.

8. Score one for the little guys: The NFL’s two leading receivers are New England’s Wes Welker (57) and New Orleans’ Darren Sproles (51). Welker is 5-foot-9 and Sproles is 5-foot-6, and this stat is pointed out by someone shorter than that.

9. If I’m the Cleveland Browns, I’m not giving Peyton Hillis a contract extension after what has unfolded this season. One of the things that has been reinforced here this year is how teams have to consider how a big-money contract will change a player’s approach (e.g. does he get too comfortable?), and the way Hillis has handled his desire for a new contract – creating a distraction for his team – would be too much of a concern.

10. You’re a die-hard Patriots fan if you knew that today’s home game against the Giants, followed by next Sunday’s road game at the Jets, marks just the second time in franchise history that the team plays the New York clubs back to back. In 1990, the Patriots ended the season with a road game vs. the Jets and a home contest against the Giants. That put an end to the one-year Rod Rust era, capping a 1-15 season.