This week we once again get the old rivalry of the Indianapolis Colts versus the New England Patriots. The drama of this matchup has decade long implications. Yet for only the second time in a decade the Indianapolis Colts will head to Foxboro without a player wearing number 18 under center. Andrew Luck and The Indianapolis Colts boast a four-game winning streak heading to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. To get that streak to five games the Colts will need to win their individual matchups, and keep Brady from carving up their secondary. Brady and company will look to continue their offensive success, and pressure Andrew Luck into making some rookie mistakes.
Patriots Offense vs. Colts Defense
The New England Patriots are 1st in the NFL in yards per game and points per game. The key to their success this year has been the running attack. Second year player Stevan Ridley has added a consistent and dangerous element to the Patriots already versatile offense. Currently sixth in the league in rushing yards, Ridley has eliminated the running back by platoon system Belichick had favored in previous seasons.
With New England riddled with nagging injuries to most of its skill players, the ability to run the ball effectively will become critical. Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Brandon Lloyd were limited in practice this week, and with Aaron Hernandez out another game, Brady will be without a healthy receiver to throw to.
The Patriots weapons may be hurt, but against a Colts defense that ranks 26th in opposing passer rating, there will be big play opportunities for Brady. It will be up to former Patriot cornerback Darius Butler and veteran safety Antoine Bethea to attempt to contain Brady.
As bad as the Colts are against the pass, earlier this season the Colts were often victimized by teams focusing on the run. The Colts get Robert Mathis back this week, and he should provide a boost to the pass rush. Dwight Freeney and Mathis are accustomed to playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, and have had troubles defending the run from their new linebacker spots in the Colts 3-4 look this year.
New England may look to victimize a Colts front seven that has improved in recent weeks, but has yet to face a rushing attack of the caliber the Patriots will bring this week.
Colts Offense vs. Patriots Defense
Andrew luck has thrown for 2,631 yards this year. If we project his stats forward, Luck could end up with 4,600 yards passing, easily a rookie record. Yet the only stat that matters to Luck has always been wins, and with 6 wins this year, Luck has put the Colts in position to get into the playoffs in his first year captaining Indianapolis.
This week, Luck will face a secondary ranked 29th against the pass. One difference for New England will be Aqib Talib. Recently off suspension after his trade from Tampa bay, Talib has the talent to change the face of this New England secondary, and one would think he would pair up nicely with Reggie Wayne.
Belichick prefers to run more of a zone based passing defense, and may work Talib into the scheme instead of throwing him to the wolf, trying to defend Wayne heads up. The Patriots also will see the return of safety Patrick Chung. If Chung and Talib are tasked with containing Wayne, they are in for a long day. Wayne is having one his best seasons this year, leading the NFL in receptions (69), and is second in receiving yards (931). Luck loves throwing to Wayne, and has dangerously pressured the ball in to him at times.
Pressuring the passer is Chandler Jones, who has finally given the Patriots the kind of pass rusher teams need to prepare for. Working the run to take pressure off Luck and Wayne may be critical to the Colts success. Vic Ballard and Donald Brown are expected to split carries again this weak, but Brown has been the more effective back when healthy. The Colts will look to slow down Brady by running the ball, and hope Luck and Wayne can run circles around an adapting New England secondary.