Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. The Patriots’ safety play has been spotty through five games, but it’s hard to say Brandon Meriweather (Bears) and Jarrad Page (Eagles) could have offered much in the way of improvement based on their performance with new teams. Both are reportedly being demoted this week. Letting go of veteran James Sanders, on the other hand, remains debatable from this perspective.
2. I think Jets coach Rex Ryan faces his toughest test since landing the job prior to the 2009 season. The Jets gave receiver Santonio Holmes big money, but he’s creating a division in the locker room (link here). These next two weeks – with home games against Miami on Monday and then San Diego a week from today – could define their season. I think they get two wins.
3. Reason No. 1,215 why the NFL is great: Who had today’s 49ers-Lions game as of the marquee matchups of Week 6? We saw the Lions coming on, while the 49ers’ early emergence seems to reflect that Jim Harbaugh is the real deal as a head coach.
4. Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who serves as the Patriots’ player representative, took note of Ravens offensive lineman Matt Birk being fined $5,000 for not wearing a microphone during a recent game. Birk had explained that he took it off after having problems with it in pregame. Light said he hasn’t had to wear a mic, and hopes he never does, even though players are required to as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. “It is what it is,” Light said, tapping a favorite Bill Belichick line. “They’re going to do what they do and you have to fall in line, or else get fined.”
5. The NFL’s trading deadline is Tuesday and there has already been more activity than the norm (e.g. Aaron Curry to the Raiders; Derrick Mason to the Texans). But I’d still be surprised if the Patriots make a move.
6. The Cowboys are 16-6 in games played after their bye. I’m not sure what that means heading into today’s road game against the Patriots, but it was a stat that caught the eye.
7. After he was successful on two big challenges last week, Bill Belichick credited football research director Ernie Adams for making the call up in the coaches’ booth. You don’t hear Adams’ name mentioned much, but it was another reminder that he is probably Belichick’s most trusted advisor. The two go back to Phillips Andover Academy.
8. Some say it’s too early to call a game a “must-win” at this time, but I think it’s safe to go there for the Falcons today. They are off to a disappointing 2-3 start and host the Panthers, where quarterback Cam Newton could feast on a defense that has looked shaky at times. Then comes a visit to Detroit before the bye. Some liked the Falcons as a Super Bowl pick, but with the Saints (4-1) already two up in the loss column in the NFC South, the Matt Ryan-led club has hit a critical point earlier than expected.
9. One of the things I’m most surprised about this season is that the Sam Bradford/Josh McDaniels pairing in St. Louis hasn’t produced better results. The Rams are averaging a league-low 11.5 points per game.
10. Patriots rookie running back Stevan Ridley wasn’t sure which team was going to draft him, but the four that showed the most interest were the Patriots, Cowboys, Rams and Seahawks. All had him visit their facility in the days leading up to the draft. The Cowboys connection adds a twist to today’s matchup.