Fresh off a bye week, the Patriots (7-2) ride a five-game winning streak into Indianapolis Sunday night.
But the Colts, 6-3 and off a bye week themselves, are up for the challenge and are looking to make a statement that they too should be considered a top-tier AFC team along with the Pats and Broncos. In fact, the Colts are currently favored to beat the Patriots by three points on Sunday.
Recent history is on New England’s side. The last time these two teams met in the regular season (Nov. 12, 2012), the Patriots manhandled rookie Andrew Luck en route to a 59-24 victory. Last year in the postseason, again New England cruised, 43-22.
But with this one being in Indy, and with Luck having another year under his belt, there’s reason to believe it’ll be closer.
A more experienced Luck
The Colts really couldn’t have planned a better tank job than the one that landed them Luck due to Peyton Manning’s neck injury a few years back. Luck has almost instantly taken the Colts back to contention in a league where teams swing and miss on QBs year-after-year. Luck goes into this weekend leading the NFL in passing yards (3,085), but he’s also extremely dangerous on the ground, using his athleticism to make something out of nothing.
“He does a lot of things I wish I could do,” Tom Brady said. “He’s big, fast, shrugs off blockers. He makes a lot of extended plays. He’s a great passer.”
Patriots fans still have to pinch themselves when they see Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner take the field – and proceed to impact the game in ways we haven’t seen around here in years. Expect the same Sunday night. Luck’s favorite weapon, T.Y. Hilton, has 937 receiving yards this season – third in the NFL – but the secondary will look to take that away. With an average running game, Luck will be looking elsewhere on the field, likely to his tight ends.
Gronk to the rescue … again
Speaking of tight ends, the Patriots will win that head-to-head matchup just about every time thanks to the re-emergence of Rob Gronkowski. The Colts defense has given up 45 catches for 552 yards and six touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, according to Scout’s fftoolbox.com. Indy also ranks 27th in passing yards allowed per game (263.6).
“[Gronkowski] been a great catalyst for our offense, and he’s a big factor in every game we play,” Brady said. “Whether he catches the ball or not, he’s a big factor, and I think that speaks to his value to our team.”