Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Bill Belichick highlighted St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols’ excellence and charitable work in a team meeting with Patriots players this week ("60 Minutes" piece here). Part of the message received by one player was how Pujols wasn’t just a great player, but how he also does great things off the field.
2. Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said this week that teams scoring on the last possession of the first half who then score on the opening possession of the second half win 90 percent of the time. The Steelers call it a “double score” and that’s a reason teams defer the choice when winning the opening coin toss. The Patriots are in that category.
3. Have to feel good for Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with his big contract extension. When I think of the spunky Bills’ rise as a challenger in the AFC East, Fitzpatrick and his build-it-from-the-ground-up career path epitomizes that.
4. Always excited to be at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, one of the great pure football environments in the NFL. It’s a personal favorite alongside underrated Seattle, which is on the schedule in 2012.
5. From the looking-deeper-into-the-game stats department: The Patriots are giving up 7.8 yards per first down play. That ranks them last in the NFL. On the flip side, the Steelers rank first, allowing just 4.6 yards per first-down play.
6. The Packers are widely considered the best team in football, but they are also an example of how every team in the NFL has some noticeable flaws. The Packers are surrendering an average of 288 passing yards per game, which ranks them 31st, better than only the Patriots.
7. Ditto for the Ravens, whose offense has looked as poor at times as the Patriots’ defense did early in the season. Still, if you look across the AFC, they remain a top contender.
8. Was impressed to see Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey making some big plays last Monday against the Ravens. Mincey was a sixth-round draft choice of the Patriots in 2006 who couldn’t beat out Pierre Woods at the time. He’s started every game at defensive end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 defense and is one of the few players drafted by the Patriots under Bill Belichick who has gone on to better things with a new team.
9. I like reading ESPN Scouts Inc. Matt Williamson’s weekly rookie report (link here) that ranks the best new talent in the NFL each week. This week, Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder shows up in the “notables” category. Solder has started five of six games and held his own.
10. October has been good to the Patriots. The team is 32-5 in the month since the 2003 season and has won 23 of its last 25 October games.