FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. The scuba suit is making its return, as quarterback Tom Brady plans to wear it in the season finale against the Jets on Sunday, with temperatures expected to be in the teens and the wind chill making it feel even colder.
"I've been wearing it at practice," Brady told me Friday. "It just insulates you from the cold. It's good because it keeps the wind from penetrating and it really doesn't limit movement too much."
Brady first experimented with a scuba top in the Jan. 10, 2004, divisional-round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, which he said is the coldest game he ever played in. That is also the coldest game in Patriots franchise history; it was 4 degrees at kickoff, with wind chill making it minus-10.
The Patriots won, 17-14, but as Brady reminisced about that game late last week, he remembered how it easily could have been a loss.
"They almost caught that pass at the end, Drew Bennett. I remember Steve McNair rolled to the left and threw a great ball on the sideline. He was a stud," he said, before recalling specific details of the game as it happened yesterday.
"I hit Bethel [Johnson] on a touchdown up the middle, 41 yards. It was freezing. They had a great defense. We got ahead of them and our defense played great as usual."
2a. The Patriots have had the most continuity at both coordinator spots of any team in the league, with Josh McDaniels (offense) and Matt Patricia (defense) having been in those posts since 2012, but it seems like longer odds that both of them will be back in 2018. That's because those close to McDaniels believe he's as motivated as ever to strongly pursue any opportunities that might come his way, and there are expected to be several. McDaniels has been more deliberate in recent years, wanting to ensure that he wasn't rushing into a second job as a head coach, and that he had a thorough evaluation and understanding of where things went wrong in Denver (2009-2010). Seven years later, the timing seems better than ever for him to take the plunge.
2b. If McDaniels departs, wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea (who called plays in the final preseason game) and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski would be top in-house candidates for Bill Belichick -- assuming his return for a 19th season -- to consider.
2c. Like McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is expected to once again receive interest for head coaching openings as well. Linebackers coach Brian Flores would be a top in-house candidate in the event Patricia lands a head-coaching job.
3. During practice this past week, veteran outside linebacker James Harrison saw his most extensive work in the base defense on the end of the line of scrimmage. That makes sense because it is most familiar to what he has known from his time in Pittsburgh (3-4 outside linebacker), and also because that has been a troublesome spot for the Patriots this season against the run. So as for how much Harrison plays in the regular-season finale against the Jets, a lot will depend on how often the Jets have lead-blocking fullback Lawrence Thomas on the field, or go big with multiple tight ends, because that's when Harrison will have the best chance of being on the field. He could be tapped occasionally in a sub package as a pass-rusher, but at least initially, the Patriots are viewing his primary value as an edge setter against the run.
4. It is often said that if one follows the money, they will find the answer. In the case of Harrison, and his decision to sign with the Patriots -- which he said was his only offer -- that definitely qualifies. Harrison clearly isn't motivated by the money, he just wants to play. Consider that he will receive a $58,823 game check for the season finale, and then a $28,000 playoff share in the divisional round. If the Patriots advance to the conference championship, he'll get a $51,000 playoff share, and then $112,000 for a Super Bowl win (or $56,000 for a Super Bowl loss). So the most Harrison can earn with the Patriots is $249,823 over four games, while the minimum is $86,823 over two games. In NFL dollars, that is extremely modest for a player with Harrison's résumé.
5. There has been plenty of discussion about Brady's six interceptions in the last five games -- an unusually high total for him -- and one lingering question was what happened last Sunday on his pick-six by Bills safety Jordan Poyer that was intended for receiver Kenny Britt. CBS analyst Tony Romo said it looked like Brady didn't see Poyer, and was maybe fooled by the defensive coverage, but my viewpoint of the play was altered after talking with Britt. He said his route needed to be sharper, and it would have been had he seen Poyer himself. By not running a sharper route, Britt helped open the door for Poyer to make the play.
6. Rob Gronkowski's playful exchange at the end of his Friday news conference -- in which he razzed this reporter in Bill Belichick-like fashion when the topic of James Harrison came up -- confirmed something that can be easy to overlook: When Belichick answers questions from reporters on a daily basis, sometimes with an edge, he is often reinforcing what he wants his players to hear and might have already stressed to them in meetings. This past week, the theme was essentially "If it's not about the Jets, it's not important." Belichick carried that right into his news conference and the message was heard loud and clear -- from Gronkowski, at least.
7. Patriots Hall of Famer Ty Law spoke with the Talk of Fame Network last week about his Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy, which is timely with the 27 semifinalists soon to be narrowed to 15, and then the inductees selected in early February before the Super Bowl. As part of his interview, Law spoke about how much it would mean to him have Brady's public support, which the Patriots' quarterback offered up when it was mentioned to him. "That would be incredible. He was a great performer in big games," Brady said of Law possibly earning induction into the Hall. "He could play zone. He could play man. He could intercept the ball. He was great in our defense and great when we played against him. I hated playing against him."
8a. Did You Know, Part I (via ESPN's Stats & Information): When games are completed Sunday, there will be eight teams in the playoffs this year that missed it last year. That will tie 2003 for the most such teams in the current 12-team format (since 1990).
8b. Did You Know, Part II (via ESPN's Stats & information): The Patriots can clinch the No. 1 seed for the seventh time under the 12-team playoff format, extending their lead for the most such instances in that span. New England has made the Super Bowl in five of its six previous times as the No. 1 seed.
8c. Did You Know, Part III (via ESPN's Stats & Information): Jets receiver Robby Anderson needs 61 receiving yards Sunday against the Patriots for 1,000. Should he get it, he would be the first Jets player to record a 1,000-receiving yard season within his first two seasons since Al Toon (who had 1,176 in 1986). He joined the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2016.
8d. Did You Know, Part IV: Brady is 24-6 lifetime against the Jets. He joins Brett Favre (26 vs. Lions, 23 vs. Bears) as the only quarterbacks with at least 23 wins against two divisional opponents (28 vs. Bills).
8e. Bill Belichick, Rick Forzano and NFL Films: For those who want to see a different side of Belichick, it's a must-watch.
9. East Providence native and University of Rhode Island graduate Dana Andrade spent the last five years with the Patriots, most recently with the title of football operations assistant/player development, but he's moved on to pursue his passion of joining the police force, in Cranston, Rhode Island. Andrade's main focus in player development was to assist players with their transition into the NFL and provide support both during and following their careers. Best of luck to Dana.
10. A few cold-weather notes from the Patriots:
When the club saw the forecast for Sunday's game (temperatures in the teens), team officials ordered 65,000 hand warmers to distribute to fans as they enter the stadium.
While blankets are welcome at games (fans are asked to drape them over their arms upon entry to expedite the security process), the team will have bins outside the stadium for those who would like to donate them to a New England homeless shelter.
Battery-operated coats are not allowed at Gillette Stadium (prohibited items here).
While the Jan. 10, 2004, playoff game was the coldest game in franchise history, this contest has the potential to be the coldest regular-season game in franchise history. The current record is 14 degrees vs. Miami in 1977.
The Patriots are 6-1 in games played when the temperature is in the teens or colder.