Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco might have had his hamstring tighten up this week, as the Patriots noted on the end-of-week Friday injury report, but it seems curious when a player is added to the injury report late in the week like this. It makes one wonder if his absence from practice Friday, and deactivation for today’s game, could be related to something else.
2. Today’s Patriots-Eagles game is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX and the Eagles have just one player on their current roster that played in the game – former Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel (center Jamaal Jackson was on injured reserve). As for those on the current Patriots roster who played in that game, it’s quarterback Tom Brady, left tackle Matt Light, receiver Deion Branch, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and running back Kevin Faulk (center Dan Koppen is on injured reserve).
3. Drafting and developing quarterbacks has always been good business, and at the least, having a solid veteran insurance policy is a must. Perhaps that, more than anything, is the biggest takeaway from the 2011 NFL season. Some who have left themselves thin in that area are regretting it (e.g. Colts), while we’re about to find out about others (e.g. Bears, Texans).
4. The Colts are putting receiver Marvin Harrison (1996-2008) into their “Ring of Honor” at halftime of today’s home game against Carolina. The Harrison moment that stands out to me was when the mild-mannered veteran spiked the ball with authority after a remarkable one-handed, diving touchdown catch in a 27-20 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in 2006 (YouTube video here).
5. Watching the Ravens/49ers game on Thanksgiving night led to this thought – that’s a different level of defense; attacking, relentless and one that dictates the way the game is played.
6. I didn’t think Maryland rookie receiver Torrey Smith was a good fit for the Patriots’ offense (he ended up with the Ravens), but I do think they need a burner like him. If it’s not Taylor Price, the feeling here is that it should be a high priority this offseason.
7. Tough one for general manager Scott Pioli and his Chiefs: Back to back prime-time games after losing starting quarterback Matt Cassel to a season-ending right hand injury (Monday night’s loss to the Patriots and tonight’s home game against the Steelers). Not the type of national showcase Pioli wanted in his third year building the Chiefs.
8. Tony Sparano is a longshot to be back next season as Dolphins head coach, but it says a lot about him that his team has played hard for him after its 0-7 start. If I’m a first-time head coach in 2012, Sparano is the type of assistant I’d want to bring on board.
9. Overheard in the Patriots’ locker room this week: “I just love watching Aaron Rodgers play.” The few times I’ve seen Rodgers, he looks locked in like Tom Brady was in 2007. As for the Packers’ defense, that unit looks just as vulnerable as the Patriots in certain areas.
10. Although statistics don’t necessarily show it, I think defensive lineman Vince Wilfork is having another standout year. He's playing more and seems to be getting better with more snaps, and NFL Network's "Playbook" show had a good segment this week that reflected how he's anchoring the Patriots' line with solid play. As for the playtime, consider this spike: Through 10 games in 2009, Wilfork played 64.8 percent of the snaps. Through 10 games in 2010, he played 64.8 percent of the snaps. This year, through 10 games, it’s 88.2 percent of the snaps.