The New England Patriots @ The Indianapolis Colts
In what seems to be an annual event since the NFL/AFL merger, the New England Patriots will face off against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night. In some people’s opinion, this matchup has lost its luster since Peyton Manning galloped off to Denver. On the other hand, besides featuring a first ballot Hall of Famer like Tom Brady, it also features, what many experts believe, is the next great quarterback in Andrew Luck that will carry the NFL for the next 15 or so years.
Tom Brady and the Patriots have gotten the best of Andrew Luck in the last two meetings, including a 2013 Divisional Playoff game, by a combined score of 102-46. As with any game, there is no crystal ball that will let us know what will or won’t happen. So in 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: Andrew Luck is a very good young quarterback. One day, he may end up piling up enough stats and wins to make it to Canton Ohio…but no one has been on a hot streak like Tom Brady over the last 5 games.
Running Back – Colts: The Patriot are still trying to sort out their running back situation since the loss of Steven Ridley. Though Shane Vereen is a viable weapon in the passing game, the Colts have the edge in an established running back duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson.
Wide Receivers – Colts: Though the overall depth of the Patriots wide receiver corps is better than the Colts, the top three wide receivers, TY Hilton, Reggie Wayne, and Hakeem Nicks have the advantage over the top three wide receivers on the Patriots.
Tight Ends – Patriots: The Colts top two tight ends have a combined 48 catches for 599 yards and 11 touchdowns….Rob Gronkowski by himself has 49 catches for 663 yards and 8 touchdowns….all while recovering from off season knee injury.
Offensive Line – Push: The sacks allowed and yards per rushing attempt are almost identical between these two teams.
Defensive Front Seven – Colts: The Colts are 9th against the run and are tied for 10th in sacks. New England is almost identical in sacks but is 22nd against the run. Though the Patriots showed significant improvement in their run defense against the Denver Broncos, they need to show that this can be done on a consistent basis.
Secondary – Patriots: New England may have some of the best depth at Cornerback in the NFL. With Brandon Browner slowly coming into form and being paired up with Darrelle Revis, the Colts wide receivers will have to earn each catch and each yard.
Special Teams – Push: The Patriots and Colts are number one and two, respectively, in made field goals…..and there should be no question if the Colts kicker can make clutch kicks under pressure.
Coaching – Patriots: A few weeks ago, I referred to John Foxx as Peyton Manning’s new “Sideline Dungy”….Chuck Pagano, though seemingly a good coach, reminds me of Andrew Luck’s “Sideline Mora”. Meaning, of course, that he is only coaching Luck until they have one bad season together.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
On paper, though these teams have strengths in different areas, they do seem to match up fairly closely. The key for Colts is to try to have their defense to take capitalize on “Home Dome Advantage” and pressure Brady to disrupt the passing game. For the Patriots, the key is to try to get a quick lead and force the Colts to be one dimensional. In previous matchups, this has been disastrous for Andrew Luck.
In any case, this should be a great match up for football fans to watch an all-time great versus the next generation of great quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 34 – Colts 30