1. I would not overlook Bill Belichick’s potential influence on the Giants’ search for a GM. Belichick’s long had a close relationship with owner John Mara, who’d surely seek his advice. And ex-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi has been retained as a consultant for the search, and Accorsi’s searches have, in the past, turned up Belichick protégés Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta) and Bob Quinn (Detroit) as hires.
2. Accordingly, keep an eye on Patriots VP of player personnel Nick Caserio. In the past, there’s been perception that he had little interest in leaving New England, but the sense I’ve gotten is that he’s willing to listen, especially to a place like the Giants. Last year, when the Niners set their sights on Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, there was a second effort, after Caserio initially declined to interview in San Francisco, to poach the exec as part of a package deal.
3. If Caserio were to leave, I’d be interested to see if Belichick were inclined to try and woo Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli back home. Pioli’s done a fantastic job in helping to build an impressive Atlanta roster.
4. I don’t think Jim Caldwell’s extension in Detroit makes him 100 percent safe at the end of the month. My guess is that if the Lions miss the playoffs, there’ll be some tough discussions. And there’s long been speculation in league circles that Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia could win up with the Lions.
5. The Ravens defense has been nasty all year, and the offense is finally showing some level of competence. Injury issues along the line, and Joe Flacco’s up-and-down play, have been problems all year, but behind the tough, chippy play of center Ryan Jensen, and the hard-running of Alex Collins, Baltimore’s begun to develop an identity on that side of the ball. If the Ravens win Sunday, getting to 10 wins would be easy to see, and that should be enough to make the AFC playoffs.
6. To me, the fundamental issue in games like the Bengals/Steelers Monday nighter is officials losing control. That’s something I believe is correctable through technology. We don’t need the targeting rule. Just make fighting and illegal hits reviewable, and let the players know they’re being watched constantly. Most believe they can get away with most of it, because there’s so much officials are responsible to watch. They won’t feel that way if they know the eye in the sky is on them.
7. Credit to the Packers coaching staff for getting read-option concepts into the offense to get quarterback Brett Hundley going the past couple weeks. The best news for Green Bay is that it’s helped them develop another dimension on the ground that should serve them well when they get Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. That’s all provided they can survive the Browns game this week, because another loss would probably spell the end for them.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo deserves a lot of credit for playing really well in third-and-long situations in his debut as Niners starter in Chicago. On third or fourth down against the Bears, he hit on 10-of-15 passes for 116 yards and a pick that really wasn’t his fault. (It was stolen from a receiver’s hands.)
9. We’ve spent plenty of time the past few weeks looking at potential coaching candidates for 2018: I even shot a video on the best 10 guys under 50 years old the other day. Want a name that wasn’t on there? Bill O’Brien. If the Texans coach becomes available after the season, he’ll be at the top of a lot of lists.
10. Almost seems like a shame that a late-season showdown like Falcons-Saints is on a Thursday, mostly because you have to wonder if we’ll be getting either teams’ best. Either way, I’m excited to see how it goes down.