Pats look to break through against top D


Pats look to break through against top D

We're 13 weeks into the NFL season and the Patriots have the most dominant offense in football. So dominant, in fact, that opposing defensive coordinators might as well just show up to the stadium wearing nipple clamps and a ball gag.

Heading into Monday night's game against the Texans, the Pats are the only team in the NFL that averages more than 30 points a game (and they do so easily, at 35.8). They're the only team with more than 5000 total yards or more than 300 first downs. They're the only team that converts more than 50 percent of its third downs.

For good measure, they're also the only team in the NFL with a single-digit turnover total, one of only two teams that rank in the Top 10 in both passing and rushing yards, and one of only five that's allowed fewer than 20 sacks.

Like I said: DOMINANT. And in every aspect of the game.

But for one second, let's forget about the NFL's top offense and focus on defense.

More specifically, the league's Top 10 defenses:

1. San Francisco, 14.3 point per game
2. Chicago, 16.5
3. Seattle, 16.8
4. Houston, 18.4
5. Atlanta, 19.1
6. Pittsburgh, 19.2
7. Arizona, 19.5
8. Baltimore, 20.2
9. NY Giants, 20.3
10. Denver, 20.3

Notice anything interesting about this list? How about as it relates to the Patriots? Is there anything that sticks out?

Here's what I noticed:

Week 2: The Pats lose 19-17 to the No. 7 ranked Cardinals D.
Week 3: The Pats lose 31-30 to the No. 8 ranked Ravens D.
Week 6: The Pats lose 24-23 to the No. 3 ranked Seahawks D.

On one hand, this serves as another reminder of the ridiculous fact that the Patriots' three losses have come by a combined four points. (Week 2: A missed Gostkowski chip shot; Week 3: A Justin Tucker field goal that probably shouldn't have counted; Week 6: The longest touchdown pass of Russell Wilson's career.)

But it also shows that in four games against Top 10 NFL defenses, the Patriots are a 1-3.

Is that just a coincidence?

With the No. 4 ranked Texans coming in on Monday, we can only hope so.

(And either way, let's pray that Wade Phillips leaves the nipple clamps at home.)

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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, 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.