There’s a little extra something in the frigid New England air this week. No, not snow – not yet, anyways.
It’s playoff football. And it makes its annual return to Gillette Stadium Saturday (8:15 p.m., CBS), where the Patriots hope to advance to their third straight AFC Championship game.
Of course, they’ll have to be at their best. Luck is, after all, on the other side. Andrew Luck, that is.
Fresh off a 28-point comeback victory over the Chiefs last week, Luck and the Colts roll into New England on a high note. But a well-rested and ready Patriots team awaits them.
The last time these two teams played, in November of last season, the Patriots rolled to a 59-24 win. Julian Edelman, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Aqib Talib all scored touchdowns in that game, and you can bet that all of them will be needed this time around.
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Most expect a tighter game Saturday.
“Obviously everything’s hyped up a little bit more,” Patriots safety Steve Gregory said. “Every little detail, every little play, every second of every snap means so much more, because it’s win or go home.”
Luck and Co.
You thought the Patriots offense was hurting? The Colts just signed the previously thought-to-be-retired Deion Branch. That should tell you where they’re at personnel-wise. But Luck is still a dangerous QB, both through the air and on the ground. One wide receiver that the Pats' defense will be zoned in on is T.Y. Hilton, who had a monster game against the Chiefs (13 catches, 224 yards, two touchdowns). There’s no way Bill Belichick is allowing that Saturday night.
Turn of events
The turnover game: it can make or break a team. Every possession counts, and if one is blown up by an interception or fumble, that can change the momentum of a game right then and there. The Colts’ takeaways outnumbered their giveaways in the regular season, 27-14. For the Pats, it was 29-20. Of course, ball security is easier in a dome. How will the Colts protect it outdoors?
“It’s key for us to make sure we go out there and try to force some turnovers,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "I think when you look at them throughout the season, they’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball. This game we have to try to force them.”
It's not just about '12'
Brady is 17-7 in his playoff career, but just 7-7 in his last 14 postseason games. He’s 12-3 at home in the playoffs. How does he improve those records? Balance. It can’t all be on Brady and his arm. Look for the Pats to utilize their surplus of capable running backs.