Patriots rookie linebacker Jamie Collins is now one of several linebackers who need to step up in the playoffs after the team recently placed Brandon Spikes on injured reserve. (USA TODAY Images)

Here are this morning’s top stories:

PATSFANS.COM:

For Patriots QB Tom Brady, The Playoffs Are Exactly What He Lives For – Ian Logue – It’s been nine years since Brady won a championship, and the journey toward trying to win another begins Saturday night for Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Loss of Brandon Spikes A Big One For The Patriots Defense – Steve Balestrieri – Balestrieri looks at the loss of Spikes and its impact on New England’s defense.

BOSTON GLOBE:

Time running out for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick – Christopher Gasper – Gasper writes that “It’s gridiron Groundhog Day for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick heading into this weekend as they try and get that elusive fourth Lombardy Trophy.

Patriots’ depleted linebacking corps set to step up – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer writes that strength in numbers is required in football, and of the linebackers the Patriots were counting on to be major contributors this season, Hightower is just about the only one left.

What Colts did in win wasn’t lost on Tom Brady – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer files his notebook this morning, which leads off with comments from Brady about the Colts’ come-from-behind win over Kansas City.

BOSTON HERALD:

Alfonzo Dennard ‘feels good’ in return – Mark Daniels – Daniels has an article on Dennard, who said he’s feeling better after missing the finale two weeks ago against the Bills.

Patriots Notebook: With Spikes down, Collins, Fletcher step up – Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact the Patriots have an opportunity to prove that they’re as deep at linebacker as any position on the roster.

Tom Brady continues to crave a chance to capture another crown – Karen Guregian – Guregian writes that when you’re Tom Brady, nine years has been an eternity since he last hoisted a Lombardi Trophy.

Pats must take what Luck gives – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that the Patriots will need to slow down Andrew Luck and the Colts offense Saturday night as they look to advance in the postseason.

ESPN BOSTON:

Penalty watch: Morelli gets call as ref - Mike Reiss – Reiss has his weekly penalty update and writes the Colts and Patriots were the two least penalized teams this season.

Brady isn’t worried about Luck – Field Yates – Yates writes that Brady’s not worried about Luck, since the Colts quarterback is obviously not a defensive player and Brady’s more focused on being able to make sure they score points Saturday.

Why LB Davis fills void for final roster spot – Mike Reiss – Reiss explores the possibilities as to why the Patriots elected to promote linebacker La’Gared Davis from the practice squad Tuesday after Spikes was placed on IR.

Hightower on Spikes & his own comeback – Mike Reiss – Reiss has quotes from Hightower on the loss of Spikes and what it means to the team.

WEEI:

Brady practices with cold: ‘I’ll be there’ Sat. – Brady said yesterday he’s got a little bit of a cold but that he’ll be out there on Saturday night.

After an up-and-down season, these five Patriots could be critical to postseason success – Christopher Price – Price has a good read on five players he believes will be the key to the Patriots success during the playoffs.

MASSLIVE:

Following Brandon Spikes’ trip to IR, New England Patriots linebackers have to step up – but not overstep their roles - Nick Underhill – Underhill looks at the roles the Patriots remaining linebackers have to fill, and how it may play out Saturday night.

ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONCILE:

Talib not about to give any room to Hilton – Mark Farinella – Farinella has comments from Talib, who is about to likely face off with Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton.

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

Patriots will miss Brandon Spikes vs. Colts – Rich Garven – Garven has a column on how losing Spikes may affect them Saturday night.

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL:

Patriots Journal: Colts-Pats gamesmanship cuts both ways – Brian MacPherson – MacPherson writes that a bit of gamesmanship appears to have seeped into the upcoming Patriots-Colts playoff game, including the fact the Patriots gave Branch’s old number, 84, to newcomer Reggie Dunn yesterday.

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD:

Patriots beat: Brady ready for another title run – Mike Lowe – Lowe has a good article on Brady as he gets set for another postseason run.