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Sunday, September 11, 2011
Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

By Mike Reiss

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

1. The more I think about the Patriots’ season opener against the Dolphins on the road, and some of the team's injury and depth questions, the more I view it as a tough spot. On top of that, the Dolphins might have the best defense in the NFL that few talk about.

2. Always thinking ahead, Bill Belichick approached the second preseason game at Tampa Bay as a preview for players on what to expect in the season opener Monday night. Belichick played the starters throughout the first half in warm conditions. From an elements perspective, his thinking was that the second preseason game was going to closely resemble what they'd face in the season opener, so he gave top players extended time.

3. After watching Thursday’s entertaining NFL season-opener between the Saints and Packers, the first thought that came to mind is the resiliency of the NFL. After the lockout offseason, and wondering if fans might be turned away, the product looked as good as ever. The viewership was off the charts, too.

4. The Patriots have more than $10 million in salary cap space at this point, and while they’ll want to leave themselves some cushion in the event of emergency, this positions them to address contract extensions for the likes of Wes Welker, Jerod Mayo and Sebastian Vollmer at some point during the season. We've seen quite a few extensions across the NFL in recent weeks.

5. The Dolphins have made a major effort to get the ball downfield under first-year coordinator Brian Daboll, which could put stress on a revamped Patriots safety position on Monday night. Patrick Chung probably plays throughout the game, and my hunch is that Sergio Brown and Josh Barrett will be rotating into the game next to him.

6. Prediction on Colts’ victories this season if quarterback Peyton Manning doesn’t play: 8. Playing the AFC North and NFC South is a tough draw.

7. I’ve heard some question why Bill Belichick would allow himself to be mic’d up throughout the 2009 season, and have a documentary film produced on his history in the game while giving unprecedented access, when one of his primary messages to players is "team first" and no one is above the team. Interesting debate, although I didn’t have an issue with it.

8. I think one of the real gems on the football media scene is Mike Pereira, the former NFL’s Vice President of Officiating. I follow him on Twitter -- @MikePereira -- and his knowledge of the rules fills a blind spot for many in the field. Whenever there is a close call, or a rules question, his immediate insight has enhanced my experience following the game (e.g. pass interference call on A.J. Hawk at the end of Thursday’s season-opener).

9. Former Patriots safety James Sanders landed quickly with the Falcons, signing one day after he was released in New England. While Sanders landed on his feet, he did take a hit in the wallet. He was due to earn a base salary of $2.8 million in New England, and now has a base salary of $1.3 million in Atlanta. I think economics were the primary factor in his release from the Patriots, the idea that Bill Belichick felt he had players at a similar talent level for a fraction of the cost. I'm not sure if the Patriots approached Sanders about a possible reduction before releasing him.

10. NFL teams can have 46 players active on game-day, up from 45, and there is no third quarterback rule. Just a hunch, but assuming there are enough healthy players I think Bill Belichick will lean toward using an extra player at another position rather than activating rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett as a third QB.