Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and inside Gillette Stadium:

1. One of the top concerns for the Patriots is their kickoff return game. Their average drive start is the 23.6 yard line, which ranks 31st in the NFL and is forcing them to drive longer fields to score.

2. If picking a team to represent the AFC right now in the Super Bowl, it would be the Chargers. They've won 10 in a row -- a streak that includes impressive road wins at the Giants, Broncos Cowboys, and Titans -- and have been the Colts' nemesis.

3. Last year's Patriots finale in Buffalo was played in such heavy wind gusts that the goal posts needed to be tied down. Imagine if the situation is similar this year and the Colts -- who visit the Bills on Jan. 3 in their season finale -- are going for 16-0.

4. The Patriots lead the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball an average of 33:16 per game.

5. Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson was averaging 17.4 yards per reception entering Friday's game at Tennessee, which reflects eye-opening ability to pick up yardage in big chunks.

6. The Raiders aren't going anywhere, but you have to give them credit for knocking off two playoff hopefuls on the road in two of the last three weeks (Steelers, Broncos). On a related note, Richard Seymour (4 sacks) has been held without a sack in each of the last eight games.

7. The Cleveland Browns made attempts to sign four different players off the Patriots' practice squad this season, and each time the players elected to stay. Given the changes ahead in Cleveland with Mike Holmgren accepting a position to run the football operation, which will likely result in a coaching change, those players will probably benefit from their long-range thinking.

8. Bills safety Jairus Byrd (NFL-high 9 INTs) figures to get serious consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but given that he started 11 games and is now on injured reserve, I think I'd lean more toward a full-time starter like Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.

9. One statistic that reflects the decisiveness with which Laurence Maroney is running: He is 7 of 10 in picking up first downs on third-and-1 situations this season.

10. Every division leader has a plus turnover differential except for the Arizona Cardinals, who are minus-8 (24 takeaways, 32 giveaways). The Cardinals have a league-high 17 lost fumbles.