Chung, Spikes 'all good' heading into playoffs

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Chung, Spikes 'all good' heading into playoffs

FOXBORO -- As the Patriots enter their much-deserved first-round bye this weekend, all eyes are on how the defense will use their time to improve for their Divisional round game against either the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Cincinnati Bengals.

"The bye week is great, we earned it," said Patriots safety James Ihedigbo on Thursday. "The first thing you want to do is rest up and do whatever extra stuff you need to do to get your body right and mentally focused. When we find out who were playing, study that much more and spend that extra time. Right now, there are a lot of very, very good teams in the playoffs, otherwise they wouldnt be here. It comes down to the little details and execution thats the difference between wins and losses.

"I dont want to set the bar for our defense at all, our performance will speak for ourselves," he added. "We all know and we put the pressure on ourselves to step our game up. Its playoff football so we know that we have to take our game to another level. You always believe that the preseason is there for guys to get back into the groove of things and then you have the regular season where guys are playing their hearts out but the postseason is a different level of football and you have to turn it up to that notch or otherwise youre going to be home."

If New England has a downfall, entering the playoffs, it's not their offense. But one thing that has been somewhat overlooked is the return of safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes.

Chung missed seven games with a foot injury before returning to make seven tackles in Sunday's win over Buffalo. Spikes missed the same seven games before he also returned to make three tackles on Sunday.

Both are looking forward to using the bye week to their advantage, both physically, and mentally.

"I was fine after the game," said Chung. "Were all good, you know we got these couple days off to whatever pain we might have to take care of those and get rid of those little aches and pains and now its just go time. So, its just good to have that bye week."

"I feel great," said Spikes. "Its just good to be out there running around, make some plays with the guys, its been awhile. Im just focusing to be back on the field . . .There's still some things I've got to just keep on working on. All the smaller things, the fundamental things. I should be fine.

"Me, personally, the bye just gives me time to get in the books and go back and look at games I missed, and just try to critique my game, and make sure I'm on top of it, when it's time to play."

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL players vote every year on which players should make up the list of the best their game has to offer, but it's an imperfect system. And that's probably putting it lightly. 

The NFL Network will reveal the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night at 8 p.m. It will be an order that has been chosen by some players, not all. Of those who took part, some hastily made their way through a handful of names at the end of last season handing over their choices. 

Yet it's the list the league ends up with, for better or for worse, prompting responses like JJ Watt's when he found out he was No. 35 this year after playing in three games last season. 

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

This year, several Patriots players from 2016 made the cut: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Tom Brady will be the last of Bill Belichick's players to be named. He's lumped into a Top 10 that will include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

Here's what we think the list should look like when the curtain falls on the finale of this flawed endeavor:

10. Elliott
9. Beckham
8. Bell
7. Brown
6. Ryan
5. Jones
4. Miller
3. Mack
2. Rodgers
1. Brady

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

If you're hoping to help lead the Patriots defense from the middle of the field, No. 51 wouldn't be a bad jersey to wear in that pursuit.

Those are the digits that were worn by longtime Patriots captain (and Quick Slants co-host) Jerod Mayo during his run with the team from 2008-15. Taking the torch from linebackers like Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel, Mayo was the defensive signal-caller and quarterback of the Patriots defense for the better part of a decade, eventually handing the reins to his understudy Dont'a Hightower. 

With Harris now in the mix, the defense will still be led by Hightower, who was a captain for the first time in 2016. But Harris figures to serve as a leader in his own right for the Patriots. The 33-year-old 'backer has been one of the game's most durable players at his position while with the Jets, and over time he established himself as a savvy communicator at the second level. 

Comparing Harris to Mayo comes easily because of their reputations as coach-on-the-field types. Back in 2014 when Darrelle Revis called New England home, he explained that what Mayo did for the Patriots defense reminded him of what Harris did in New York.

Now Harris has Mayo's old number, and in training camp he'll make a play for some of the duties Mayo held later in his career. How Harris will handle his new role, and how he may help his teammates take their games to new heights, is something we touched upon in this space earlier today

Harris wore No. 52 during his 10 years with the Jets. That number has belonged to Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts since he came into the league last season as a rookie, and it looks like Roberts will hold onto it for the foreseeable future.

No. 51 has bounced around to a couple of different Patriots since Mayo's retirement. Last year it was claimed by Barkevious Mingo, who has since moved on to Indianapolis as a free agent. Through this year's spring workouts No. 51 was worn by undrafted rookie linebacker Brooks Ellis, who now shares No. 47 with fullback Glenn Gronkowski.