After surviving a scare at home vs. the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots are back to work and preparing for a familiar team, albeit with a new quarterback.
Despite the near disaster against Buffalo, the Patriots at home, as expected, are the favorites in this matchup. (see the latest odds at sportsbetting.ag)
Andrew Luck’s smooth transition into the NFL seems to have happened overnight. While most projected a losing season and had allotted some developmental time for Luck in the NFL, the Colts so far have been a surprise. At 6-3, the same record as the Patriots, the Colts sit right behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South standings.
Some might argue that their wins were against less than stellar teams (Cleveland, Tennessee, Miami for example), but a good performance against New England would give an indication of where this team is headed. Interim head coach Bruce Arians knows this game is a litmus test for the young team, so expect the Colts to play hard on the road.
Play as hard as they may, it may be all for naught if Luck cannot find a way to shake his road woes. He has displayed a tendency to force more passes on the road, with only 2 TDs and a staggering 7 INTs. The Patriots defense will look to exploit that shakiness with some schemes to confuse the rookie.
The Colts will most likely come into this game the same way Buffalo did last week, and that’s to exploit the Patriots secondary. Buffalo did it with success, but for the Patriots, things should be improving with the addition of CB Aqib Talib, who should get the start Sunday.
Longtime Colt Reggie Wayne is the leader of the receiving corps with 69 REC for 931 YDs and 3 TDs, but the Colts have also infused some young talent at the position, most notably the speedy deep threat T.Y. Hilton, who is averaging 14.8 YDs per catch.
The Colts running game isn’t much of note, with Donald Brown leading the pack with 361 YDs, and with the Patriots defense ranked 9th against the run, don’t expect much in this matchup.
One aspect of the game to watch is how the Colts’ front seven plays Tom Brady. They’ve been an aggressive bunch all season, sending 5 or more pass rushers 41.6 percent of the time. With the weapons Brady has at his disposable, this might not be advisable.
This season, an under pressure Tom Brady has produced great results. He currently holds the best TD-to-INT differential when facing five or more pass-rushers (plus-10).
Note: The NFL has moved this game to the later time slot, 4:25pm on CBS.