Sunday kickoff: Flacco's better than you think

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Sunday kickoff: Flacco's better than you think

BALTIMORE -- Joe Flacco is either fifth or sixth in line when it comes to media tongue baths among Baltimore Ravens.

Theres, of course, Ray Lewis. Then Ed Reed. Then Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs. Then comes either Flacco or head coach John Harbaugh. By that time nobodys listening anymore.

Looking at his value as a fantasy football option or as a guy who will move the needle in terms of name recognition, hes weak. Just Joe.

But if you look at Flaccos actual resume record, hes better than okay or pretty good. Hes one of the leagues most effective quarterbacks.

The Patriots arent concerned tonight about how many fantasy points Flacco amasses. Theyre concerned about the player who is 45-21 as a regular-season starter, the guy who has thrown 83 touchdowns and 47 interceptions in his four-plus seasons (69 and 35 if you take away his rookie season, when he was a 23-year-old out of Delaware). He has never missed a game and his output is bizarrely consistent 3,613, 3,622 and 3,610 have been his regular-season yardage totals the past three season. At 27, Flacco has played in as many big games as any quarterback in the league in his first four years.

The Ravens have gone 5-4 in Flaccos nine postseason games. Hes played in two AFC Championship games 2008 as a rookie, and again in 2011 and while he spit the bit against Pittsburgh in 2008 with three picks, he did everything he could eight months ago to get the Ravens to the Super Bowl. The name Sterling Moore will forever haunt him if Flaccos career ends without a Super Bowl appearance.

Flacco got lampooned earlier this year when he asked where he ranks among quarterbacks. He said I think Im the best.

To me, that answer was less about hubris and more about Flacco articulating the mindset he believes EVERY quarterback has to have.

The whole response?

I assume everybody thinks theyre a top-five quarterback. I mean, I think Im the best. I dont think Im top five, I think Im the best. I dont think Id be very successful at my job if I didnt feel that way. I mean, cmon. Thats not really too tough of a question.

"But that doesnt mean that things are gonna work out that way. It just means that thats the way it is, thats the way I feel it is, and thats the way I feel it should be.

Flacco hasnt had to be the best in Baltimore because the team hasnt been constructed around the quarterback. Its been defense first and Ray Rice second. After that, its been Flacco throwing to old guys like Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Todd Heap.

This year, more is on his plate as the Ravens have gone up-tempo offensively and Flaccos got some more talent on the outside, especially with promising young targets like wideout Torrey Smith (who may not play tonight after the tragic death of his brother in a motorcycle accident) and tight end Dennis Pitta.

Im not sure if Flacco is in the top-five, top-three or top-10. All that stuff is week-to-week anyway, it seems. What I do know is that, more often than not, Joe Flacco is part of the reason the Ravens win. And that as opposed to Q-rating is what matters.

When the Patriots started populating their roster with players Josh McDaniels coached in Denver or St. Louis (or, in some cases, both), the connection was duly noted. Now, the performance ought to be as well. So far, tight end Daniel Fells has been a non-contributor, Brandon Lloyd has been the Patriots' top target in the passing game but has a way to go to satisfy his potential, Greg Salas was released and re-signed to the practice squad, and Michael Hoomanawanui was horrendous last week. Im not sure what the expectation level for each of these players ultimately is, and theres a long way to go, but mining for gold on the roster of a 2-14 team (thats what the Rams were last year) is an aggressively counterintuitive move.

If the Patriots beat the Ravens tonight, the career record of Tom Brady as a starter including playoffs will be 142-42. The 142 wins (and counting) amassed by Brady and Bill Belichick is going to be extremely hard to break. And it would be even higher if the ACL injury of 2008 never occurred. Consider, Don Shula and Dan Marino are running in second place at 117 wins as a duo. Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy are 47-24. To get to 150 when Rodgers is 35, the pair would have to win 103 more games by 2018. Thats an average of 14.7 per year.

Waaaaayyyy too much air and interest expended on the way teams treat the kneeldown play. Think about it: The one play out of about 140 in each game on which there is literally almost nothing happening, and we get a weeks bluster and focus on it because its sensationalistic and conversation generating. A day? Two days? Sure. I like to see personalities revealed too Greg Schianos and Tom Coughlins being the two in this instance. But the inanity of fixating on it and asking coaches about the end-of-game KNEELDOWN play for a week? As my buddy Mike Reiss often says when the media poop hits the fan, What are we doing here? Can we step back for a second?

Can someone please make a cogent argument about why the Patriots would be pissed off at Wes Welker for signing the franchise tag and showing up for minicamp, training camp, preseason, etc? Like one that trumps this argument: The Patriots are NOT pissed because they can now go year-to-year with a 31-year-old slot receiver, they're not on the hook for 2013, and still get all of Welkers services in 2012 (such as they decide to use them). Co-hosting in August 2011 on WEEI, I said that Welker - while incredibly talented - was not a unique talent. That slot receiver is a replaceable position and that Julian Edelman could approximate Welkers work. After last years 122-catch season, I had to admit that Welker is unique. And maybe the best slot receiver ever. But my initial inclination that slots are replaceable remains the Patriots belief.

Youre not going to find a bigger proponent of sleep than me. Im a world-class napper. I placed third in the Southeast Massachusetts Sleep-Off held in 2008, in which I had to fall asleep on a bed of nails while sailing on a garbage scow sailing through the Cape Cod Canal. I sleep while driving. And I still dont have any idea why the Jets would broadcast their consultations with a sleep specialist this week. It may do a world of good. So might a hypnotist, witch doctor or group cry. When youre running a team, you have to measure how news will reflect on the brand and be spun. For instance: It seems Bart Scott needs a nap.

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters last week that spending time with Bill Belichick can make you "feel pretty inadequate as a coach."

But Belichick raved about Stevens during a conference call on Sunday. The two spent time together on Friday night for the Hall of Fame Huddle fundraiser to benefit Belichick's foundation, and the Patriots coach explained that he's learned a lot from the Celtics boss.

"Got to know Brad ove the last couple of years," Belichick said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, taking a young team, a team that we barely knew some of the players on the team, and in a couple of years has built them into a strong team last year and played very competitively in the playoffs. Fun to go over there and watch them.

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"Brad and I have talked about a lot of things that are just coaching-related. Obviously the sports are different. I don't know anything about basketball, and he says he doesn't know much about football. It's really not about Xs and Os and that kind of thing. It's more the other parts of coaching: Prepartion, training, team work, team-building, confidence, communication, players and coaches relationships and so forth.

"Obviously we're in the same business in taking more people to training camp than we can keep on a roster, then managing a roster and dealing with things that happen during the year with that roster, whether it's bringing other guys onto the team, trades and so forth. We've chatted about a lot of those things. He's given me a lot of insight.

"I'd say some of the players they get are a little younger than the guys we get on average. Kids that are coming out of college after one year, we get them after three years or four. Just the trans from college to pro which he obviously has a lot of experience with. Coming to the New England area for most players, that's an adjustment, we don't get too many guys from this area. All of those things like that."

Belichick: Sunday a 'rare opportunity' to watch upcoming opponent live

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Belichick: Sunday a 'rare opportunity' to watch upcoming opponent live

How do the Patriots handle Sundays after Thursday night games? Bill Belichick says he won't be glued to the television as New England's next opponent, Buffalo, takes on Arizona. But he will be watching and thinking through situations as they play out live. 

"I think for today, we've done preparation work on the Bills in their first two games, so this is one of those rare opportunities where you can kind of watch the game with a little bit of an idea of how you would want to play it or what you would want to do in certain situations," Belichick said in a conference call on Sunday. "Then, obviously not knowing what they'll do, kind of see how that goes, see what they'll do in those situations compared to what you think they're going to do. Or have they come up with something else, or is this situation a little bit different and has that changed their strategy or play-calling or whatever that happens to be?"

One of the elements of the game that Belichick may give a little extra thought to is how the Bills run their offense under new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who replaced Greg Roman after Roman was fired following Buffalo's Week 2 loss to the Jets.

"Obviously, with a new coordinator, defensively we'll have to pay attention and see what changes or modifications they will make this week," Belichick said. "That may be an ongoing process. I don't know if they do decide to change things whether they could get it all done this week or maybe it would take a period of time, but we'll kind of keep our eye on that.

"In the end, we'll have the film by the end of the day today so that'll answer a lot more questions than the live part of it will. But the live part of it, I'd say as we're working on the scouting report for Buffalo, you can kind of have that game on in the background, sort of keep your eye on it, and see how it goes. But I wouldn't say we're just glued to the TV because we'll see everything that we need to see in a matter of hours anyway."