1. Adam Vinatieri has kicked for a loooooong time. He started as a rookie kicker for the New England Patriots in 1996 and kicked in every single game for the next 10 years. That’s 160 games.
Well, this weekend, Vinatieri will participate in his 161st regular season game with the Indianapolis Colts in his 11th season away from New England. Vinatieri missed 3 games in 2006, 10 games in 2009, and 1 game in 2013.
It seems like just yesterday that Vinatieri was embarking on a Hall of Fame career with the Patriots, but he’s about to be more of a Colt than a Patriot, statistically speaking. Although I guess Vinatieri played in 17 playoff games with the Patriots and only 13 with the Colts, which means that he’ll need three more games overall to force a tie- and that will probably have to wait until 2017.
2. Speaking of kickers, Stephen Gostkowski seems to be over his early-season jitters. After starting the year 28 of 33 (84.8%) on all kicks, Gostkowski seemed to right the ship around the bye week. Gostkowski has connected on 33 of his past 35 kick attempts (94.3%) starting in week 8 against the Bills.
It took just a little bit of patience, but now Gostkowski is hitting his attempts, while also presenting the best kickoff positioning in the league, forcing opposing teams to start their drives with the worst field position in the NFL. Just like with the defense, Gostkowski is hitting his stride at the best possible time.
3. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick should be one of a few coaches up for the Coach of the Year award. Belichick will only win it if the Patriots finish the year with the best record and it seems like his work over the first four weeks of the season without QB Tom Brady might not have as much clout as the performances of some other head coaches.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will be a top competitor after leading a team with a rookie quarterback to the #1 seed in the NFC, while also navigating a potentially difficult situation with QB Tony Romo. It also doesn’t hurt that the Cowboys went 4-12 in 2015 with a pretty similar roster.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio should be the only other coach in contention. If Dolphins coach Adam Gase or Lions coach Jim Caldwell win, it’s because the voters only look at how a team finishes and not how a team starts the season.
4. And looking at the start of the season, the Patriots are setting themselves up to trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo over the offseason. ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes that “the Patriots will want a lot” for Garoppolo, which might imply the Patriots want an extremely high draft pick in exchange for their quarterback.
The Cleveland Browns seem like a perfect fit, more so than any other team, while Schefter also reports that “just last week, one person close to the Patriots said he would be ‘stunned’ if New England traded Garoppolo. The interest from other teams will be there, but so will the interest to retain him to try to ensure a successful transition from Brady to Garoppolo.”
The Patriots are clearly trying to drum up the trade value for Garoppolo, as they should, but a quote from Garoppolo’s dad has alway stuck out to me.
"We hope he stays in New England," he said. "Maybe there’s a way they can still work with the two of them with the progression, only time will tell."
With Brady under contract through 2019, the Patriots would need to sign a monster extension to keep Garoppolo with the team.
5. Brady needs to play 85 more games to match Vinatieri, or slightly more than 5 seasons- right when Brady thinks he’ll retire. Vinatieri has 220 wins, while Brady has 203 wins. Do you think Brady will overtake Vinatieri within those five years?
Assuming that both players play through 2021, Brady would need to average between 3 and 4 more wins than Vinatieri over that time frame. It’s very possible, if this year is any indication. Factor in the possibility that Vinatieri will retire before Brady, and the odds are pretty solid for Brady to be the all time leader in victories in NFL history.