Age no barrier to New England success
I spent a few days at the New England Patriots training camp in August and quickly discovered what the team that visits London to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley in two weeks' time is all about.
You can be the strongest, fastest, most physical beast in the NFL, but if you don't know how to play the game, the Patriots don't have a place for you on their roster.
A wise old coach once told me that speed alone is not enough to succeed in the NFL because if you don't know where you are going, all that pace will do is ensure you are out of position faster. His belief, and it is one shared in New England, is that football intelligence is as important as athletic ability.
The Patriots have been perennial winners since Bill Belichick took charge in 2000. The numbers speak for themselves: six AFC East Division crowns, four Super Bowl appearances and three title-game victories. With these credentials, it's no wonder that we've deemed the Patriots worthy of a spot of commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra live when they take on the Broncos this Sunday.
Since the start of the Belichick era, New England have proven themselves to be one of the smartest, 'team-first' organisations in the NFL. Boston has also been home to some veteran performers who were considered past their prime or simply not worth the hassle of signing.
Recently-retired safety Rodney Harrison was at his best in New England after being deemed a step too slow by the San Diego Chargers; Corey Dillon excelled at running back after being jettisoned by the Cincinnati Bengals and 32-year-old Randy Moss has been given a new lease of life after growing disgruntled with the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders.
Belichick doesn't care what the date reads on your birth certificate - all he cares about is production on Sundays.
The latest veteran to rock up in New England and prove he still has a few miles left on the clock is Pro Bowl running back Fred Taylor, who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars at the conclusion of the 2008 campaign. He's a fine example of Belichick's vision.
Taylor is yet another veteran to experience success under Belichick at New England
Taylor is in his 12th season and has rushed for 11,472 yards and 64 touchdowns. Early in his career with the Jaguars, he missed his fair share of games through a variety of injuries and earned the nickname 'Fragile Fred', and news has emerged today of an ankle injury which will certainly keep him out of this weekend's game against the Broncos.
But in the opening quarter of the season, Taylor has supplanted the much younger Laurence Maroney as the main weapon out of the backfield, leading New England with 201 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries.
Taylor has averaged 4.5 yards per carry and I can see him becoming the focal point of the running game even more as the season unfolds if he is able to overcome his injury, especially when you look at Maroney's figures of 27 carries for 78 yards and no touchdowns.
When looked at on their own, Taylor's yardage totals are not that dazzling - but they are proving valuable. And he is yet another example of a smart, reliable veteran producing the goods in New England in the autumn of his career.
So Taylor won't mind if quarterback Tom Brady, Moss and receiver Wes Welker garner more headlines in New England. After 11 years with rarely a sniff of a Super Bowl ring, Taylor will be content to be one small piece of the jigsaw that brings a fourth championship this decade to Massachusetts.
Given the way the Patriots are grinding out wins with both Brady and Welker yet to reach full speed (Brady is still fighting back from last season's torn knee ligaments and Welker has missed time this term with a knee injury), it would be a brave man who bets against New England being there or thereabouts come the season's end.
Game of the Week
The Patriots (minus Fred Taylor) travel west to take on the undefeated Denver Broncos on BBC 5 live sports extra from 9pm on Sunday. The Broncos passed their first big test in defeating the Dallas Cowboys last weekend but they have a tough month ahead, starting with the Patriots.
Denver are much tougher on defence and Kyle Orton has done a solid job at quarterback. But these Patriots keep finding ways to win games and I see Brady being the difference-maker, providing he resists attacking Broncos Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and targets other areas of the field.
New England 24, Denver 20
You can catch Neil commentating on an NFL game every Sunday on BBC 5 live sports extra throughout the season.(UK users only).