In what used to be an annual AFC heavy weight showdown, the Indianapolis meet the New England Patriots for the 1st time since the 2015 season. Indianapolis enters this game coming off an inexplicable Overtime loss to the Houston Texans last week. While there is much optimism in Indianapolis after the return of Andrew Luck, to this point in the season they are dwelling in the basement of the AFC South with a record of 1-3.
For New England, they are coming off a rather easy win over the hapless Dolphins and sit at 2 and looking to get back on track after their annual September swoon. While the Patriots hold a commanding 51-29 all-time series lead over the Colts, none of that matters as these AFC foes look reignite their storied rivalry on Thursday Night.
The primetime lights will be shining bright so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: While this matchup does not have the luster of another Brady vs. Manning matchup of yesteryear, New England’s Tom Brady gets the edge over Andrew Luck whose throwing arm is one good hit away from falling out of the socket.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: No one is going to confuse the Patriots’ Sony Michel with Dion Lewis at this point but the one-two punch of Michel and James White makes for a formidable backfield.
Wide Receivers – PUSH: To this point of the season, it’s been well documented on what little production the Patriots have had out of their wide receiver corps. However, the return of Julian Edelman should provide a boost in the passing game while Josh Gordon is slowly worked into the offense.
Tight Ends – PATRIOTS: The Colts do have a nice tight-end duo in Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle but even with a bad ankle, just the presence of Rob Gronkowski will draw a lot of defensive attention and help free up others in the Patriots’ passing game.
Offensive Line – PATRIOTS: Statistically the Patriots offensive line is protecting the passer significantly better than the Colts’ squad and they have been run blocking more consistently.
Defensive Front Seven – COLTS: While neither team is lighting the world on fire with their ability to stop opponents running games, the Colts have been significantly better at rushing the passer and have totaled 18 sacks so far this season which is second only to the Chicago Bears.
Secondary – PUSH: While there is nothing better than playing against the Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill to help pad defensive stats, the Patriots secondary has not performed that much better than the Colts’ to give them the definitive edge in this match up.
Special Teams – PUSH: By the numbers, the Patriots have a very slight edge in the punting and return game over the Colts. However, there has to be some respect given to Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri who arguably is the best kicker in NFL history.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: Indianapolis’ Frank Reich certainly got the best of Bill Belichick last year as the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. However, his in game management as a head coach has been questionable at best to this point. Don’t think Belichick has forgotten about that Super Bowl and isn’t looking to exact some revenge.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots -10
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) Build on the Defensive Performance: Even though the Patriots are facing a much better quarterback in Andrew Luck this week, New England must build on the momentum they had defensively to start restoring some confidence in the defense.
2) Maintaining Offensive Balance: While the Patriots Offense has been historically pass heavy, New England needs to stay committed to the run especially since the Colts have discovered a pass rush this season.
3) Take Care of Business: Since the NFL ramped up its Thursday Night schedule in 2006, the Patriots have been 7-1 when playing during the week. Though none of that history means anything at kickoff, the Patriots must take advantage of the short week and playing at home to move above .500 for the first time since Week 1.
While it would be logical to assume that the Patriots will focus on getting the ball to Julian Edelman early and often, don’t be surprised if New England leans on their running game to try to get the edge in time of possession to protect their defense.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 27 – Colts 20