Fantasy thoughts: There is a presumption among many owners that WR Chad Ochocinco(notes) will become the second coming of Randy Moss(notes) now that he is in New England. In reality, that isn't how the Patriots will run their offense.
Last season, 28 of QB Tom Brady's(notes) 36 touchdown passes were divided among TE Rob Gronkowski(notes) (10), WR Wes Welker(notes) (7), TE Aaron Hernandez(notes) (6) and Deion Branch(notes) (5). Unless you think Brady is going to throw 50 TD passes again, that doesn't leave many opportunities for Ochocinco. Furthermore, if you take the seven best seasons of Ochocinco's 10-year career, he has averaged eight TD catches and never had more than 10 in any season. While he has had seven 1,000-yard seasons, he has never been the kind of scorer of Moss' ilk.
The reason: Ochocinco isn't a great red-zone receiver. His best work is done in the open field. That showed up in practice because he wasn't part of the primary unit the team used in red-zone passing situations. That group included the four aforementioned pass-catchers from last season and RB Danny Woodhead(notes).
Brady is obviously the safest choice and he looked extraordinarily sharp in practice this week. Given the familiarity with most of his receivers, Brady won't drop much from his extraordinary performance last season (only four INTs).
The big concern here is what the Patriots will do at running back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is back after scoring 13 TDs and rushing for 1,008 yards last season. But with second-round pick Shane Vereen(notes) and third-round pick Stevan Ridley(notes) in the fold, it's obvious the team wants to upgrade the position. Green-Ellis and Woodhead are just average runners. They get what's there and little more. Despite the great passing game the Pats had last season, the longest run that either of them broke was 36 yards in a combined 326 carries. The problem with improving the position is whether Vereen or Ridley can learn the offense (particularly the blitz pickups) fast enough.
3-4 or 4-3?: There was a spirited debate between coach Bill Belichick and the media on Thursday about whether he is better known as a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive advocate. Fact is, Belichick has played plenty of both systems and will continue to do that going forward.
The presence of DT Albert Haynesworth doesn't mean that Belichick is going to be anchored to pairing the former Redskin with DT/NT Vince Wilfork in a standard 4-3 alignment. The two spent a lot of time working on stunts and games in a two-tackle alignment on Wednesday, but Haynesworth is so gifted that he can lineup as a DE from time to time (as he did in Tennessee when the Titans would shift Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes) inside).
Belichick will move people around to take advantage of matchups. With the lack of LBs who are well-suited for the outside spots in a 3-4, it's easy to see that Belichick will be forced to play more 4-3 than usual, but don't expect his team to be limited in any way.
Tidbits from the road: Boston is always a great stop along the road. A good dinner in the North End (Lucca was the choice this time, but it's hard to go wrong in that part of town) was a great start. The real find on this trip was Sam LaGrassa's sandwich shop on Province Street. It's a Guy Fieri suggestion from "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives," and worthy of the suggestion. The place had a line out the door for good reason. … The other great thing about Boston is that it's a great walking town. You can get just about anywhere in 20 to 30 minutes by foot and the public transportation is good. Now, if they could just get a few more good hotels downtown to help drop the cost of staying in and around the Hub, life would be much simpler.