Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:
1. After Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones turned in arguably the best game in his three-year NFL career last Sunday in Minnesota, the club will continue to explore different ways to use him as a Darrelle Revis-type chess piece along the defensive line. The idea is to exploit potential favorable matchups with a top talent and don't be surprised if we see something along those lines today with Jones flipping from right to left end in a 1-on-1 matchup against Raiders right tackle Khalif Barnes. It's something to watch for as we continue to see growth from a budding star.
2. At this time last week, I didn't think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would be in jeopardy of losing his job unless sponsors started dropping out. Now I'm not so sure about Goodell's fate after Friday's news conference and ESPN's “Outside the Lines” report on how the Ravens, and the NFL, handled the Ray Rice investigation. There simply has to be some form of accountability for Goodell, and if it's not his job, what is the accountability? If Goodell ultimately does survive and there aren’t major changes in his role in the disciplinary process, the feeling here is that his credibility, and thus the credibility of every ownership group that employs him, is significantly compromised.
3. One observation since the Patriots' surprising Aug. 26 trade that shipped captain and locker-room spokesman Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers is that Nate Solder has stepped up to fill some of that off-the-field void. Although maybe not always comfortable in the media-based spokesman-type setting, Solder has seemed to go out of his way to answer on behalf of the offensive line -- and taking personal accountability -- in showing a new level of leadership in his fourth season.
4. Three games into the regular season, one wonders if the Buccaneers might be having some second thoughts on the Mankins trade. They are 0-3, with issues that look greater than guard play, and have the following three-game set before their Week 7 bye: at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, versus Baltimore. The Buccaneers shipped a fourth-round pick and tight end Tim Wright to New England in the trade, which isn't a major haul, but is still significant. It's only natural to wonder if general manager Jason Licht maybe overrated his roster when consummating that trade.
5. With the Raiders coming to town today, the past week has been spent getting familiar with their roster and team-building process under third-year head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie. The regime inherited a difficult salary-cap situation, took some lumps in 2012-13 while cleaning it up, and set things up for 2014 to be the turning point. But from afar, the addition of so many later-career veterans this year looks like a panic move that almost aborts what they were trying to build.
6a. Did You Know, Part I: The Seahawks-Broncos game today marks the first time there has been a Super Bowl rematch of the game the following season since 1997 when the Packers and Patriots played after meeting in Super Bowl XXXI. One common link between the games is the presence of head coach Pete Carroll on the sideline. You're a hard-core Patriots fan if you remember what unfolded that day -- the Patriots led 10-7 in the second quarter before the Brett Favre-led Packers -- with Dorsey Levens and Mark Chmura scoring touchdowns -- ultimately recorded a 28-10 "Monday Night Football" victory at Foxboro Stadium.
6b. Did You Know, Part II: ESPN.com NFL Insider Field Yates passes along these two nuggets with a Patriots-Raiders twist -- Tom Brady (2000, sixth round) and Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000, first round) have had the longest uninterrupted run with their current team of any player in the NFL, and Brady and Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson represent just two of three NFL players this season who are 37 years old (Cardinals long snapper Mike Leach the other).
7. Watching Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt line up as a goal-line tight end and catch a 1-yard touchdown pass in last Sunday's win against the Raiders made me think that first-year head coach Bill O'Brien is utilizing Watt the way Bill Belichick once did with linebacker Mike Vrabel. O'Brien, of course, is a former Patriots assistant who has hired Vrabel as his linebackers coach in Houston. Not surprisingly, it turns out it was Vrabel who was a significant voice in suggesting to give Watt a chance in the role.
8. Two years ago, then-Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes stayed away from voluntary team activities in hopes of doing away-from-the-team work that proved he could become a three-down linebacker. At least that's the way it was framed by some close to Spikes. It didn't unfold that way in New England and it looks like the Bills view Spikes the same way after he played just 15 of 79 defensive snaps last Sunday. Spikes is what he is: A downhill, two-down, run-stuffing linebacker who plays with infectious energy and still has value to a team; just not three-down value because of his struggles in coverage.
9. We don't see much of them in New England on a regular basis, but the Arizona Cardinals are one team that has impressed me through two weeks of the season. Despite losing multiple key players on defense, and then traveling to face the Giants last weekend without starting quarterback Carson Palmer, they're 2-0 entering their Week 3 home tilt against the 49ers. That reflects well on second-year head coach Bruce Arians.
10. One of the more surprising personnel-related storylines with the Patriots is what has unfolded at the safety spot next to Devin McCourty. At one point in training camp, I remember watching the tandem of McCourty and Duron Harmon working alongside cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and it was easy to draw the conclusion that Harmon -- the No. 3 safety on the 2013 Patriots -- was part of the top group. But the 2013 third-round draft pick hasn't been the choice, as Patrick Chung (84 snaps) and Tavon Wilson (35) have both played more than him (29 snaps). When Chung signed this offseason, he wasn't viewed as the projected starter. Meanwhile Nate Ebner has played 14 snaps in the dime package as the Patriots have mixed and matched with Chung the top option in the base defense.