Quick-hit thoughts around Pats & NFL

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

1. One of the benefits of the Patriots’ preseason finale at the Giants is a chance for the team to get acclimated to the new Meadowlands Stadium before the Week 2 road opener at the Jets. I’m not sure that would be enough for Tom Brady to play a series in the preseason finale, but simply getting a feel for the new surroundings – such as where the play clock is located etc. – can’t hurt.

2. The Bengals, who visit the Patriots in the season opener, looked like they found an offensive groove Saturday night in Buffalo. Rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham (4 catches, 45 yards, TD) gives them a weapon they haven’t had in recent years.

3. I penalized myself 5 yards for jumping to conclusions last week when it came to Patriots running back Laurence Maroney.

4. If you’re an offensive coach preparing to face the Patriots, which defender do you really fear? I think that’s what Bill Belichick will be looking for with one of the team’s two 2011 first-round picks – a DeMarcus Ware-type presence coming off the edge. They're hard to find.

5. One of the trickle-down effects of going to an 18-game regular season with just two preseason games is the officiating aspect of the game. It’s fewer preseason games to test out rule changes and see the effect they will have on the game, such as this year’s change of the new positioning of the umpire, which has drawn complaints.

6. I’m tempted to pick the Cleveland Browns as a possible surprise team this year. Opening games at Tampa Bay and at home against Kansas City could have them a 2-0 and building some confidence before they hit the iron of their schedule.

7. Points produced by the New York Jets first-unit offense in three preseason games against the Giants, Panthers and Redskins: 13, 6, 9. That had one ESPN.com colleague asking the question "How worried should the Jets be about Mark Sanchez?"

8. Count CBS analyst Phil Simms among those projecting the Jets overtaking the Patriots in the AFC East. Simms’ predictions for playoff teams were part of the Saturday night Cowboys-Texans broadcast, and while he didn’t have the Patriots winning the East, he did have them as a wild-card club.

9. Given the big questions at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, is there any division as wide open as the NFC West? If the San Francisco 49ers are going to make the leap, this is the year, although I still have my doubts.

10. Maybe the most important thing for a rookie coming into the Patriots’ complex offensive system is to not miss any spring or training camp practices. Tight Rob Gronkowski, who slipped to the second round because of a back injury that sidelined him in his final season at Arizona, hasn’t missed one and the results have shown.