With the New England Patriots coming into town, the Indianapolis Colts will be looking for some payback after a 43-22 Loss in last season’s divisional playoff round that effectively ended the Colts’ 2013 season. Fortunately for the Colts, this game will be played in the friendly Hoosier confines of Lucas Oil Stadium, rather than the frozen field of Foxborough.
Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts in the second half during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
While running back LeGarrette Blount is no longer with the Patriots to gash the Colts’ defense for 166 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns like in last year’s playoff
disaster game, they’re still an offense led by future Hall of Fame Quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots are the 3rd highest scoring offense in the league, averaging 31.2 ppg with Brady at the helm. They lean heavily on Julian Edelman at wideout among their other receivers like Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola. Edelman is the playmaker that the Colts can’t afford to lose sight of. Their offense also features talented scatback Shane Vereen, who’s a threat in both the run and passing game.
The Colts should expect a heavy dosage of the “bunch formation“, which they struggled mightily defending in Week 8 against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. However, the potential problems don’t stop there, as the Colts’ defense has to come up with a creative answer for defending Patriots All-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is a match-up nightmare in coverage. Colts’ linebacker Jerrell Freeman likely will draw the majority of the defensive assignment, but he’ll likely need help from his teammates.
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Otherwise, the Colts will need its outside linebackers, namely Bjoern Werner, Erik Walden, and Jonathan Newsome to pressure Tom Brady, otherwise it may be a long day for the Colts’ secondary. Another shutdown performance from cornerback Vontae Davis wouldn’t hurt either, who’s quite frankly played at a high level all season.
Squaring off against Brady is Colts’ QB Andrew Luck, who is currently leading the league’s most prolific offense (Sorry, Peyton Manning and the Broncos). The Colts are currently 1st in points per game, passing yards per game, and total yards per game, as well as time of possession. After a bye week, the team has had ample time to prepare for this match-up against one of their longtime AFC rivals.
Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass against the New England Patriots in the first half during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
While Colts’ veteran Reggie Wayne has seen his fair share of Patriots’ match-ups through the years, the Colts will need its younger stars line WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Dwayne Allen to shine and carry the workload. Getting their running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson going in the running game wouldn’t hurt either and would certainly open up some passing lanes for QB Andrew Luck down the field.
It’s a game that could have huge ramifications for potential AFC playoff seeding, as the Colts absolutely do not want to have to travel to Foxborough come January in a place that has mostly been a personal “house of horrors” for them through the years.
Rather, a win on Sunday night would be a big step in the hopes of obtaining a top seed in the AFC and the homefield advantage that goes along with it. If the Colts truly consider themselves a contender, then taking care of business on Sunday night would go a long way in making a statement to the rest of the league.