A classic AFC rivalry will be renewed this Thursday night (8:20 p.m., FOX) as the Indianapolis Colts (1-3) travel to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Patriots (2-2). Bill Belichick’s squad has been stamped as colossal 11-point favorites, while the betting total sits at a hefty 53 points.
The Patriots may not be back in control of the AFC East yet, but their sound defeat of the previously-undefeated Dolphins on Sunday just about silenced any talk of New England falling apart at the seams in 2018. Tom Brady has had better games, as he tossed two INTs to Miami defenders, but he still completed 65 percent of his passes and recorded three TDs in his team’s 38-7 romp. Brady may have to do without Rob Gronkowski, who left Sunday’s game early due to an ankle injury, but he will be getting Julian Edelman back off a long suspension. Newest Patriot Josh Gordon, still getting his legs under him, could be due to make an impact against a weak Colts secondary, which is 20th in passing yards allowed per contest.
Sony Michel, the rookie out of Georgia, had his best game to date on Sunday, rushing for 112 yards on 25 attempts. He should be expected to get most of the carries going forward for an underrated Patriots ground game, which is now ranked 12th in the NFL by yards per game.
On defense, New England’s strength is their pass stoppers, which are eight-best in the league. Andrew Luck has had an up-and-down beginning of 2018 after missing all of last year due to injury; this looks like a tough assignment for him on the road on short rest. The lack of a running game for Indy (29th by yards per game) has led to a less-than-explosive offensive unit overall (28th by yards per play). The Patriots’ run defense is just 27th in the NFL, but they should be able to keep fourth-stringer Nyheim Hines, or career backup Robert Turbin (fresh off a suspension of his own), in check in their own building.
Recent betting trends point toward New England being a good bet on Thursday night. The Patriots have won and covered in each of their last seven home games. They were favored by double-digits in three of those games. New England has covered in six of their last eight when favored by at least a full touchdown.
Expect Brady to outduel Luck with a raucous home crowd on his side as the Colts come to town on short rest.
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Prediction: New England wins, 31-17
The play: New England -11
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