By Tom E. Curran
NEW ORLEANS - A whole mess of baseball kept me (happily) from reporting to New Orleans for the NFL Owner's Meetings until this morning. Now I'm here at the Motel 6 on the outskirts of Slidell Roosevelt Hotel (a Waldorf Astoria joint) in downtown New Orleans, settling in to hear owners 'splain themselves and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gum flap on Tuesday for the first time since the Pro Bowl. You can't swing a polo stick without hitting someone of NFL note. Just walking from the front door to get my credentials, I saw Jerry Jones, Ken Whisenhunt, John Elway, Mike Smith and Chan Gailey and Pete Carroll. These meetings are going to be "compressed." Usually, they run into Wednesday when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell brings the curtain down with an address to the media. This week, they are slated to end Tuesday afternoon. The entire labor situation has cast a pall over the atmosphere here. Still, I may be an idiot optimist, but I have sensed a cooling-off in the rhetoric between the owners and players since Goodell fired off his "Dear NFL player" letter. It's as if both sides have shouted their points from the rooftops, name-called and accused and they're all set with that. Troy Vincent, the NFL's VP of Player Development and a finalist for the executive director's job now held by DeMaurice Smith, agreed there's been some creeping civility and genuine interest in dialogue that's emerged.I wouldn't be at all surprised if major progress is not made among the owners this week. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy just told me we'll have some of the NFL's all-star lawyer revue coming out in the next couple of hours (fascinating). There may be a chat with Goodell today as well. Currently, I'm hanging out in a high-back chair outside a ballroom where the owners are trying to catch a word with any of the Patriots' principals. Don't move a muscle, we'll keep you updated.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
Our Postgame live crew discusses the report that Martellus Bennet turned down a contract offer from the New England Patriots, and debate whether getting him for the long term is the right move.
The Patriots and Raiders and neck-and-neck as the race for home field in the AFC turns for home. And, with four games left, the Raiders are ahead by a nose. The tiebreakers between the 10-2 teams in play currently? Common games followed by strength of victory.
The first tiebreaker – conference record – is a deadlock as both teams are 7-1 in the AFC (the Brady-less Patriots lost to the Bills back in Week 4.
After conference record, it's the teams record in common games.
PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10
So far in common games with the Texans and Bills, the Patriots have gone 2-1 and the Raiders have gone 2-0. The Patriots play the Ravens next week. Oakland beat them. The Patriots play Denver after that. Oakland beat them as well but have one more game against Denver in Week 17.
So if it comes down to common games the Patriots really need to win these next two games.
Or hope the Raiders stub their toe a time or two in their final four games which are at the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos with a home game against Indy in Week 16.
As for strength of victory, that too goes to Oakland at this point. The Raiders’ strength of victory is at .471. The Patriots’ is at .370.
But the tiebreaker that kicks in after conference record and before strength of victory – common games – is very much unresolved.The remaining picture as it stands right now? The Ravens are the No. 3 seed with a 7-5 record that leads the AFC North. The Texans’ 6-6 record is good enough to lead the AFC South. The 9-3 Chiefs are the top Wild Card. The 8-4 Broncos are the No. 6 seed.
The Patriots play the Ravens and Broncos over the next two weeks. Currently, the Dolphins (7-5) and Steelers (7-5) are on the outside looking in.
The Titans (6-6) will have a chance to get even with the Texans in Week 17 in head-to-head matchups but they host Denver and play at Kansas City the next two weeks so they have obstacles to clear before they get there.