Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. It’s unlikely that the Patriots will strike any contract extensions during the playoffs, but I’d expect the team and receiver Wes Welker to take one final crack at hammering out a long-term pact before the league year officially ends. It's been a struggle to this point, but I don’t think it should be that hard if both sides meet in the middle.
2. New Rams owner Stan Kroenke admires the Patriots model and Bill Belichick, which is what he has in mind going forward (link here). That's why it's difficult to understand, unless they know Jeff Fisher will be their next head coach, why the Rams were willing to let former Patriots assistant Josh McDaniels out of his contract to return to New England. Fisher and McDaniels wouldn't be a fit, but any other coach might be interested in keeping McDaniels to maintain some continuity on the offensive side with quarterback Sam Bradford.
3. The Saints look like the Patriots to me – explosive offense, not too much resistance on defense. Think we could put the Packers in that category too.
4. I thought the two wild-card games Saturday confirmed the obvious – the level of play in the NFC is superior to the AFC this year. It was only a few years ago that it was the other way around. I expect that will continue today.
5. How about this stat: Of the 11 head coaches hired prior to the 2009 season, only three are still in that position. It could be two if the Colts let go of Jim Caldwell. If anything highlights how quickly things change in the NFL, that’s it.
6. Kirby Wilson coached Patriots running backs from 1997-1999 under Pete Carroll and he needs our thoughts and prayers after being severely burned in a house fire Friday (link here). We’re thinking of you, Kirby.
7. Did you Know: The 2011 season marked the first year in NFL history in which three different teams scored at least 500 points – Green Bay (560), New Orleans (547) and New England (513). Those three clubs finished with a combined record of 41-7 (.854).
8. I don’t think Bill Belichick would ever do it, but given the struggles of the team developing defensive backs, it’s worth mentioning – Eric Mangini remains on the coaching market. Some of Mangini’s best work came with Patriots defensive backs.
9. Liked seeing Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael recognized by NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth at the end of Saturday’s NFC wild-card game, with Collinsworth relaying how quarterback Drew Brees said he was proud of Carmichael’s growth as a coach over the years. Carmichael’s football background goes back to Medway (Mass.) High and the Tri-Valley League.
10. As for another local guy, Bill O’Brien, here’s hoping they give him a chance at Penn State. He deserves it. Bill Belichick’s glowing statement about O’Brien spoke volumes.