After pummeling the Colts in Week 11, this NFL handicapper expects the Patriots to earn another double-digit win and the spread to be covered here on Sunday's NFL odds.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots: Odds Overview and Weather
Patriots -6½, 54½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Sunday 23:40 [CBS (USA), Sky Sports 1 HD (UK), 6:40 p.m. ET/3:40 p.m. PT]
The AFC’s top seed, the New England Patriots (13-4 SU, 9-8 ATS) welcome last week’s lone straight up underdog winner, the Indianapolis Colts (13-5 SU, 12-5-1 ATS) to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Saturday night for this AFC Championship game with the winner getting to punch its ticket to Super Bowl XLIX on February 1.
NFL odds makers installed the host (Patriots) as 7-point favorites, but the line moved down from 7 to 6½ on Tuesday afternoon in most sports books. The Total Points in this game is set at 54½ (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) while the Money Line (Winner) odds see New England as -260 favorites with the visiting Colts priced at +231 on the take-back (Pinnacle). The Patriots Team Total Points is set at 30 (BetVictor) with the Colts Total Team Points at 23½ (Boylesports).
Some random prop wagers for this big game: Team To Score First: Patriots -162, Colts +125 (Skybet); Will Either Team Score A Safety?, which has the No at -1900 and the Yes priced at +700 (7/1, Bwin); and, Highest Scoring Half: First Half -110, Second Half -110, Draw +2000 (20/1, Ladbrokes).
Five days out from the game (Tuesday), the weather forecast for Foxboro, Massachusetts (The Weather Channel) calls for Considerable Cloudiness, occasional Rain Showers in the late afternoon with a High temperature of a 46° F and SSW Winds at 10 to 15 mph. The chance of rain is 50%. With the Colts playing in a dome and the Patriots used to the various weather conditions and how to play them at Gillette, this can only be an advantage for the homeboys. And it does sound like weather could be at least some degree of wet.
The Indianapolis Colts (7-1 SU L8) proved to be the only team in the NFL’s Divisional Rounds to go in and knock off the higher-seed in their home when QB Andrew Luck (15-12 ATS Road) and the Horseshoes dominated Denver on Sunday, winning 24-13 as big 9½-point underdogs. In the win, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano (24-15-1 ATS) and his staff deserve much credit for establishing a surprisingly solid and necessary rushing attack as well as playing wonderful pass defense against their old teammate Peyton Manning. Granted, Uncle Peyton is aging, an injury was bandied about after the game and the Broncos just didn’t look real good, squashing any notion that there is or ever maybe even was a Fabulous Four in the NFL.
With Luck (380 completions, 4,761 yards, 40 TDs in regular season), the Colts have the #1 Passing offense in the NFL (305.9 ypg), but with as successful as the running game was against Denver (28 rushes, 99 yards), expect Indianapolis to make some commitment early to rushing the ball. But the Colts butter their bread with the pass, so expect Luck to look for his constant mix of WR TY Hilton (82 receptions, 1,245 yards,73 TDs, 16.4 ypc; +100 Anytime TD Scorer, bet365), WR Reggie Wayne (64 receptions, 770 yards, 2 TDs; +187), TE Dwayne Allen (29 receptions, 395 yards, 8 TDs; +170) and TE Coby Fleener (51 receptions, 774 yards, 8 TDs; +150). In terms of gambling and edges, knowing that Luck likes to go to his talented TEs Allen (+170 Anytime TD Scorer) and Fleener (+150 Anytime TD Scorer), solid possession guys and big (6’3”, 6’6” respectively) targets.
And Stanford grad Luck (+320) also likes to work his RBs and other WRs into his distribution mix like WR Hakeem Nicks (+275)—who scored last weekend against the Broncos—WR Donte Moncrief (+187), RB Trent Richardson (159 rushes, 519 yards, 3 TDs, +450) and RB Dan Herron (+110), who scored the team’s first TD last weekend versus the Broncos.
Indianapolis (6-0 SU and ATS vs. AFC South) was average on defense throughout the regular season, ranking #12 against the Pass (220.3 ypg) and #18 against the Rush (113.4 ypg) but has put up back-to-back nice games allowing 10 and 13 points so Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky deserves that last donut in the box and if he can get a third straight game like that out of his unit against the mighty Patriots, than maybe club owner Jim Irsay will buy him his own box of donuts.
The Colts (4-1 L5 SU Road) have C‘s Jonotthan Harrison (concussion) and AQ Shipley (ankle) and LB Henoc Muamba (back) listed as Questionable but C Khaled Holmes is good to go and when it’s potentially the last game of a season for a team, expect players to find a way if they have to or if their teams suddenly need them due to an in-game injury. The Colts head into this healthy, with some valuable momentum and in a good frame of mind. Thinking they can beat New England here will be half the battle.
New England Patriots
New England (11-2 SU L13) and head coach Bill Belichick (150-112-5 ATS) have Tom Brady (373 completions, 4,109 yards, 33 TDs) at QB and the home-field advantage so what more could they possibly want? This is why the Patriots played the way the did over the last quarter of the season to get the #1 seed for the valuable week off and the rest but also for this very situation—the potential to host the AFC Championship game. And besides Belichick and Brady and the friendly confines of Gillette, New England (2-4 SU L6) also has this freak of nature who makes the big catch and then runs with defenders accumulating on his back like snow on a truck’s back windshield. And that freak is named Rob Gronkowski (82 receptions, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs, 13.7 ypc, -175 Anytime TD Scorer) and as few defenses have been able to neutralize the TE’s impact on a football game at the right time, Indianapolis will be hard-pressed to figure out what to do with the 6-foot-6-inch, 25-year-old University of Arizona product.
Should the Colts waste too much manpower on Gronkowski, Brady will find waterbugs Julian Edelman (92 receptions, 979 yards, 4 TDs, -105) and Danny Amendola (+200) or WR Brandon LaFell (74 receptions, 953 yards, 7 TDs, +105) who has had a breakout season for the Patriots. As far as a rushing attack for the hosts, Oregon product LeGarrette Blount (60 rushes, 281 yards, 3 TDs, -105), Jonas Gray (89 rushes, 412 yards, 5 TDs, +240), Brandon Bolden (+200) and James Develin (+700) and New England ranked an impressive 8th in the league (102.9 ypg), improving that aspect of its overall game along with its defense some although work still needs to be done on that side of the ball.
As far as injuries, RB Gray (ankle) and CB Brandon Browner (knee) are both listed as Questionable for Sunday’s game but expect them to play and New England will also enter this contest relatively healthy for where they are this season but like all teams in the NFL that would be or just finished playing now, their Injured Reserve lists(s) sing songs of several talented players waiting for next season. Football is indeed a violent game.
Best Betting Approaches and Trends
The last time these two teams met was in Week 11 of the regular season at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis (16-6-1 ATS L23) where the Patriots did an absolute number on the visiting Colts, pounding them 42-20 as rare 3-point underdogs in the Hoosier State. And that result may be worth as much as any algorithm, trend or gut feeling. Covering the spread by 25 on the road as an underdog two months ago sort of says something. But Indianapolis (6-2 SU L8 Road) is playing really intelligent and balanced football and has definitely improved since Week 11. New England (17-1 L18 Home) has owned the Colts in this series (5-0 SU L5), going 13-2 SU L15 vs. Indianapolis and 5-2 ATS L7, but the Colts are 4-2 ATS L6 here at Gillette Stadium.
Relevant trends concerning the Total: The Under is 5-0 in the L5 Colts games—by more than 10 points each over the L2 playoff games; the Under is 4-1 L5 Indianapolis Road games; and, the Under is 5-2 L7 Patriots games. But there are many trends supporting the Over here including both teams’ regular season O/U marks (Patriots 9-7 Over, Colts 9-7 Over); the Over being 10-5 L15 Colts Road games; the Over is 11-3 L14 here in New England; and, the Over is 5-0 in L5 overall here at Gillette Stadium. So, a mixed bag and who knows with the weather possibly being an influence.
In the end, taking some shots on some logical Anytime TD Scorers like the aforementioned Edelman (-105, bet365), Allen (+170) and/or Fleener (+150) seem worth moderate-sized wagers and with New England at home—where teams seem to get all the calls and all the breaks, ask Detroit and Dallas—and the confidence and fresh memories of that 42-20 crunching in Naptown, all the logic and trends and expectations are with Belichick, Brady, Gronkowski and that pair of waterbugs to find a way to get back to the Sonoran Desert and that dusty Promised Land of Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX.
Prediction: Patriots 34 Colts 23
Free NFL Picks: Patriots -6½ (5Dimes), Julian Edelman Anytime TD Scorer -105, Dwayne Allen Anytime TD Scorer +170 (bet365)