Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

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

1. Any time the words “illegal”, “filming” and “former Patriots assistant” are in the same sentence – as they were with Saturday’s news of the NFL fining the Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels $100,000 – it brings the Patriots’ prior illegal videotaping procedures back into the public eye. In the words of Bill Belichick, I’m sure Patriots owner Robert Kraft is thinking, “That’s not what we’re looking for.”

2. Prior to the videotaping penalty, my opinion was that Josh McDaniels would at least get another year to prove he is the right man as Broncos coach, but with his personnel duties given to someone with a more proven track record. Now I’m not so sure. While I believe him when he says he didn’t view the illegal videotaping and made a mistake by not immediately reporting it, this is going to be tough for him to overcome.

3. Some tossed out the word “homer” on Twitter when I mentioned Thursday that Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty should be in the discussion for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors because he’s played every snap but one, has five interceptions, six solo special teams tackles, and has been one of the team’s most consistent players this season. I’d probably still vote for Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, but what would be your answer to this question: Which of the two had a bigger impact on Thursday’s game?

4. Understanding that there is an independent evaluation when it comes to players who sustain concussions – as part of new NFL procedures – I’d be curious for more answers on how things unfolded last week with the Colts and receiver Austin Collie. It sure looked like he should have never been cleared to play against the Patriots.

5. While beginning to dissect the Patriots-Jets game on Dec. 6, one area where I see the Jets having an advantage is on special teams. I think that has to be a big concern for Bill Belichick.

6. I don’t view Rex Ryan's Jets as a lucky team as much as a mentally tough one. If you’re going to beat them, they’ve proven that you have to score the knockout because they’re seldom going to beat themselves.

7. From the “holding yourself accountable department”, this is what I wrote before the Patriots-Bengals season-opener: “I’m a believer in Carson Palmer. If putting a list together of top starting quarterbacks in the NFL, he’d be in the top half.” Like many of Palmer’s passes this season, I was way off the mark with that one.

8. In Detroit, one media member I spoke with in the press box was questioning whether head coach Jim Schwartz would get a third season with the 2-9 Lions. I think he should. Select the right linebacker and defensive back early in the draft, sign a few leadership-type veterans, and I think that’s a team to watch in 2011, assuming Matthew Stafford stays healthy.

9. I think the Patriots’ top priority in the 2011 NFL Draft/free agency should be an impact pass rusher. Even if the player only projects to play in sub packages – which would normally mean he wouldn’t get a first-round grade – that shouldn’t hold them back. The team plays sub defenses more than 50 percent of the time anyway.

10. The Titans will start rookie quarterback Rusty Smith, a sixth-round draft choice out of Florida Atlantic, today in Houston. Bill Belichick privately worked out Smith before the draft, and it just so happened the workout was one day before Smith’s wedding. Smith’s groomsmen were his receivers at the workout and Belichick was firing his flip-flops at Smith in an attempt to distract him. Classic.