Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Bill Belichick seemed to strike the right balance with how he handled the team’s bye week -- giving players two straight days off, then coming to work for two days, then giving them two straight days off. This helped accomplish two goals: clean up some on-field issues that have been hurting the team while also giving players a break as they look ahead to the most physical game on the schedule, against the Baltimore Ravens.
2. Some have said the Ravens are the best team in the NFL. One reason I’d be hesitant to agree is turnover differential. They are minus-7 on the season, which ranks last in the NFL. The Ravens host the Denver Broncos today.
3. On the flip side, the New York Jets lead the NFL with a plus-8 turnover differential and have a league-low one give-away. The question from here: Can quarterback Mark Sanchez keep playing at such a high level? If he does, the Jets just might be the team to beat.
4. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo is really coming on, looking once again like an elite defender after a quieter 2009 season. He had 16 tackles against the Dolphins and nine the week before against the Bills, both team highs.
5. Some have asked why Bill Belichick held a hastily arranged news conference Thursday to talk about Randy Moss if he wasn’t willing to explain in detail why the team traded him. Maybe the best reason is that he wanted to put the story to bed before the team returned for work Monday.
6. If the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks do strike a trade involving Deion Branch, one area of consideration is salary. Branch is making a base salary of $5.47 million this season and is due to earn $5.95 million in 2011. It’s hard to imagine the Patriots taking that on without an adjustment downward.
7. The Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) will be looking to pull the upset today in Indianapolis against the Colts. Anyone else have the same thought that Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel probably dusted off one of his old Patriots game plans for this one?
8. With the Oakland Raiders at 1-3 and the Carolina Panthers at 0-4, the 2011 draft picks that the Patriots have from each team -- Oakland’s first-rounder and Carolina’s second-rounder -- are looking like they could be extremely valuable.
9. One area in which Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini may be underrated is talent evaluation. He was Jets head coach when Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis were drafted in the first round in 2006 and 2007, and he also saw something he liked in current Patriots running back Danny Woodhead to give him a shot out of Division II Chadron State. Those are just a few examples that seem to reflect how Mangini learned well under Bill Belichick when it comes to talent evaluation.
10. Great stat from ESPN.com’s Mike Sando, whose roster database produces nuggets such as these: After trading Randy Moss, the Patriots now rank as the 28th-oldest team in the NFL. As of Jan. 2, they were the league’s second-oldest.