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Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

12/16/2012

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Because of a combination of the rotating scheduling format and Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury in 2008, Brady has never played a road game in San Francisco, where he attended games as a 49ers fan growing up in San Mateo, Calif. Based on the current rotating scheduling format, the Patriots wouldn't play in San Francisco until 2016, and Brady, who is under contract with the Patriots through 2014, would be 39. Today's game, at Gillette Stadium, is just Brady's second in his career against the 49ers.

2. As tough as the No. 1-ranked 49ers defense plays, I was surprised to see they've forced only 18 turnovers this season. Twenty teams have more.

3. Running back Curtis Martin went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a New York Jet, as one would expect, considering he played eight of his 11 seasons with them. But today, he returns to Foxborough as one of the Patriots' honorary captains. Martin's presence is tied to the Patriots' celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Any disagreement that Martin is "The Greatest Patriot Who Got Away?"

4. I know it all comes down to money, but thumbs-down from this perspective on potentially expanding the playoff field. I think it would introduce too much mediocrity into the postseason and lessen the importance of the regular season.

5. When the Redskins drafted quarterback Robert Griffin III in the first round this year, and then followed up by selecting Kirk Cousins in the fourth round, I was among those to question the logic. Why waste a mid-round pick on someone who was going to be a backup from day one? Yet a day like today validates the Redskins' line of thinking. After Cousins replaced the injured RG III last week and helped lead the Redskins to victory, he starts today against the Browns. If there's one position on the roster that calls for over-insurance, that's the one. It's part of the reason the Patriots used a third-round pick on Ryan Mallettin 2011.

6. One visual from the start of Patriots practice Wednesday, as players and coaches arrived at the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse for a walk-through: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and receiver Brandon Lloyd arriving together, with wide smiles and plenty of laughs between them. Lloyd has talked in the past about his affinity for McDaniels. The two obviously remain close.

7. It sounds a bit off the mark to say it because they are currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but I think a case could be made that today's home game for the 11-2 Falcons, against the Giants, is one of the most important games of their season. Quarterback Matt Ryan & Co., have invited doubts about their ability to beat a top team. A victory over the battle-tested Giants could quell those doubts, but more importantly give the Falcons a confidence boost after a surprising loss to the Panthers last week. The Falcons finish at the Lions and at home against the Buccaneers.

8. Did you Know, Part I: The Patriots' defense has forced a turnover in 24 straight games, dating back to 2011.

9. Did you Know, Part II: The Patriots have had just 16 three-and-out drives this season, the best mark in the NFL. That gives them a three-and-out percentage of 10.8. The league average is 22.7.

10. Did you Know, Part III: The 9-4 Colts have a chance to become just the fourth team in NFL history to win 10 games after recording two of fewer victories the year before. They have games left at Houston, at Kansas City, and then at home against Houston. The other teams to do so were the 2008 Miami Dolphins, 1975 Baltimore Colts and 1963 Oakland Raiders.

11. It is often mentioned that players who leave the Patriots seldom have the same success with their new team that they had in New England. We can't put running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis in that category. Green-Ellis went over the 1,000-yard mark on Thursday and has proven to be a solid signing by the Bengals in the offseason. That one seemed mostly to be about economics for the Patriots, who weren't going to match three years and $9 million with cheaper but talented second-year man Stevan Ridley waiting in the wings.