The New England Patriots at the Indianapolis Colts
In what seems like an annual NFL event, the New England Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. This will be the 80th meeting of these two franchises with New England holding the all-time series lead 50-29 in the previous 79 meetings. In more recent times, New England has dominated this matchup winning 7 of the last 10 meetings. This includes the last four games, two in the regular season and the other two in the Playoffs, with the Patriots winning the by a combined score of 189-73.
The Colts enter this game on a three game winning streak having won back to back games against division rivals with backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck filling in for the injured Andrew Luck. As good as that may sound, the Colts have not looked very good offensively and certainly are not living up to their preseason Super Bowl favorite hype.
Meanwhile, the Patriots enter this game with a perfect 4-0 record and with the highest scoring offense in the AFC. Led by Tom Brady, who may be enjoying the best start to a season in his career, come to Indianapolis with a vengeance after the events that unfolded after the AFC Championship Game.
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: The Colts enter Sunday’s contest with some questions on who will be starting at quarterback: Old as Dirt Matt Hasselbeck or Andrew Luck who has missed two games with a shoulder injury. Over the last two weeks, Matt Hasselbeck has played well but if Luck is healthy he will start. Normally this would sound like a good thing for the Colts but Luck has been a turnover machine this year throwing 7 interceptions compared to his 5 touchdowns. The Patriots, on the other hand, have Tom Brady who, according to some sources, may have a little extra motivation for this game.
Running Back – Patriots: Neither the Patriots or Colts have put much fear into teams with their rushing attacks which rank 23rd and 24th in the league respectively. However, with the emergence of Dion Lewis in the Patriots offense, New England may have one of the better one two punches at running back in the AFC right now.
Wide Receivers – Push: TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Andre Johnson make up a formidable group on paper but they have not translated that on the field when Andrew Luck has been starting. The Patriots wide receiving corps, led by Julian Edelman, may not match up size wise but all have been contributing when called upon.
Tight Ends – Patriots: Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen have had a combine 20 Catches for 186 yards and 2 touchdown……Rob Gronkowski, on his own, has 20 Catches for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns. Enough said.
Offensive Line – Push: Up to this point, neither team has clearly distinguished themselves as having elite Offensive Lines. The Patriots have been tinkering with line up all season long which, with the injury to Nate Solder, may help them down the stretch. However no one in New England should feel good after coming off a game where the offensive line gave up 5 sacks.
Defensive Front Seven – Patriots: Neither team has done a great job at stopping the run but the Patriots are finding a way to the get pressure on the quarterback more consistently than their Colts counterparts.
Secondary – Patriots: Adding to their defensive woes with not being able to stop the run, the Colts’ defense features a secondary that is near the bottom of the AFC barrel in pass yards allowed. The 2015 version of the Patriots’ secondary will never be confused with the 2014 version, but they have done an adequate job while still experimenting with the 2nd Cornerback spot.
Special Teams – Push: Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski were the number 1 and 2 kickers in the AFC last season. Gostkowski has gotten off to good start this year while Adam Vinatieri started off slow but has improved over the last three games. In the Colts’ dome, it’s hard to give a clear cut advantage to one over the other.
Coaching – Patriots: Chuck Pagano has been put in a tough position by the Colts’ front office with the talent they have assembled on this roster. There have already been grumblings of disharmony between Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson which can never lead to good situation for the coaching staff. Bill Belichick on the other hand has gotten the Patriots off to a quick start and, in some ways, has this year’s New England squad looking better than last year’s Super Bowl team.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Keys to Victory:
1) Keep the Emotions in Check: There has been quite a bit of buildup about the Patriots exacting some revenge on Colts for their role in the Deflate Gate Saga. Though publicly the Patriots are saying that it’s “Just another game”, behind closed doors there is no doubt there is something more going on. The Patriots need to play a smart game and not let their emotions get the better of them which can result in sloppy play and careless penalties (see the Week 2 Buffalo Bills).
2) Don’t forget the Running Game: Building on the theme of revenge, perhaps there is no one more looking to make a statement than Tom Brady. The Patriots have been about as pass happy as we have seen them during their first four games this year but it has been their ability to run the ball that has crushed the Colts in their last several meetings. Sure Brady would love to throw up a dozen touchdown passes but try not to forget the things that have made the team successful before and can be successful on Sunday.
3) Dial up the Pass Rush: Though the Patriots defensive line has yet to find the right combination of players to effectively stop opponent’s running game, they have found a bit more of pass rush early this season than most Patriots fans have been used to seeing. If Andrew Luck is starting on Sunday, perhaps this would be the time to get creative with the pass rush and blitzing scheme to see how well Luck responds under pressure coming off an injury.
This is a game that has been circled on every Patriot fans’ calendar since the 2015 NFL schedule was released. Though the luster of the game may have been diminished by the Colts sub-par play so far this season, fans certainly would love to see the Patriots break the single game scoring record on Sunday.
The Colts have gotten off to a sluggish start but they are still in the driver’s seat to win their division mainly because of how bad the AFC South is as a division. For the Patriots, it would be nice to levy some revenge on the Colts but it’s more important to get the head to head tie breaker against a possible AFC playoff participant.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 33 – Colts 24