Divisional Round Playoff Preview: Indianapolis (4) at New England (2)

Indianapolis Colts, Intern Files, Kevin Joyce, New England Patriots
Julian Edelman, Jerry Hughes

Julian Edelman led the Patriots with 105 receptions for 1,056 yards and 6 TDs. The Patriots would like for him to come up big against the Colts.

Game Info:

Location: Gillette Stadium

Date: January 11th, 2014

Kickoff Time: 8:15 PM ET

Weather Forecast: Cloudy and windy, 41 degrees, chance of rain

TV: CBS

Indianapolis Colts (11-5):

Offense:

  • Total YPG: 341.8 (15th)
  • Pass YPG: 232.8 (17th)
  • Rush YPG: 109.0 (21st)
  • PPG: 24.4 (14th)

Defense:

  • Total YPG: 357.1 (20th)
  • Pass YPG: 231.9 (13th)
  • Rush YPG: 125.2 (26th)
  • PPG: 21.0 (9th)

New England Patriots (12-4)

Offense:

  • Total YPG: 384.5 (7th)
  • Pass YPG: 255.4 (10th)
  • Rush YPG: 129.1 (9th)
  • PPG: 27.8 (3rd)

Defense:

  • Total YPG: 373.1 (26th)
  • Pass YPG: 239.0 (18th)
  • Rush YPG: 134.1 (30th)
  • PPG: 21.1 (10th)

Most recent matchup:

November 18th, 2012 – Indianapolis at New England – Final: New England 59, Indianapolis 24

Analysis:

This will likely be a much more tightly-fought contest than the one Indianapolis last lost in Foxborough. In that game, Andrew Luck threw three interceptions, with two of them being returned for scores. He has cut down considerably on his mistakes in his sophomore campaign, halving his regular season interception total from his rookie year (18 to 9) and in general being a more efficient passer. Despite this signifcant change for the better over the course of the regular season, Luck threw three picks in the wild card matchup with the Chiefs on Saturday, that of course before leading an historic comeback, the second largest in NFL history. Which Luck will show up? The one who spotted the Patriots 14 points and was a large part of why the Colts went down 38-10 against the Chiefs, or the one who only through nine interceptions in 2013 and led the second greatest comeback this league has ever seen? It could very well decide whether or not the Colts pull off an upset at the Razor.

The Patriots once again boast a formidable offense, despite the huge roster turnover and inconsistency at the wide receiver position (Julian Edelman was the only receiver to appear in all 16 games). Tom Brady’s play, especially over the second half of the season, has allowed the Patriots to maintain the offensive balance they achieved last year, being in the top ten in nearly every major offensive category, including being third in scoring (444 points, only one point behind second place Chicago). The last two games, New England has exerted its will on the ground, averaging 204.5 yards per game rushing, with LeGarrette Blount being the feature back of late (averaging 132.5 yards per game in those games). With Indianapolis vulnerable to the run (ranked 26th in rush defense), I’d imagine Bill Belichick would like to exploit the Colts’ front seven, establishing a methodical and exhausting ground game; once safeties and linebackers begin to come up for run support more readily, expect a play action pass or two to take advantage of the Colts’ preoccupation with the running backs. If the fleet Aaron Dobson, who has been out of practice for the past two weeks with a foot injury, makes an appearance, he could be in for a big day.

While the Colts rank just 20th in yards per game allowed, they rank ninth in points, meaning their red zone defense is very staunch. Will they be able to stop the Patriots from scoring inside the 20-yard line? Without Rob Gronkowski on the opposing roster, it’s certainly a less daunting task than it would be otherwise. That said, this team did just get torched for 44 points and 513 yards by a Chiefs team that had lost its best offensive player (by far) in Jamaal Charles. The Colts can’t expect to give up 40+ points again and pull a miracle out of nowhere, especially against a Belichick and Brady-led team.

The Patriots defense is a similar story, ranking 26th in yards per game allowed, but 10th in points against. Knowing this, the game could very well be a battle of bend-but-don’t-break efforts, where both teams rack up the yardage, but not the points that usually go with it. If one team wants to assure a win, they’re going to have to come up with a way to score consistently after crossing the 20, or, to compensate, score on more explosive, longer plays. Both teams have the tools to do it between the 20s, the Colts with Hilton, and the Patriots with the aforementioned Dobson.

Prediction:

This game is a closer call for me than the Saints-Seahawks rematch. It’s a marquee matchup for the NFL, an historic rivalry with some new faces, the living legend vs. the wunderkind. The Colts will be riding a high coming into Foxborough off their wild barn-burning win, but I don’t expect that to be enough against a rested Patriots team playing at home. The last two divisional rounds, the Patriots have won their matchups by an average score of 43-19. I don’t expect the result of Saturday’s game to be quite so sleep-inducing, but I do expect Brady and Belichick to advance to their third straight AFC Championship Game.

Patriots over Colts, 31-24

%d bloggers like this: