Since the turn of the century, these contests were always heavily anticipated because of the quarterback matchup and though Peyton Manning has moved on, Tom Brady will duel with a young gunslinger in an intriguing tussle against the betting odds.
Indianapolis Offense vs. New England Defense
Colts fans will never forget all the contributions Manning made to their franchise, but this new fellow is quickly earning his stripes. Down 28 points last week to Kansas City, the NFL odds seemed insurmountable for Andrew Luck to lead his team to victory, yet he did.
Those that bet Indianapolis late with their NFL picks were rewarded, but the task is considerably tougher this week.
Luck is the catalyst and maybe the Colts offense is better than the sum of its parts, but at some point, talent matters. Donald Brown is an above average running back; nonetheless, the offensive line is merely average in run-blocking (21st in rushing yards). Indy could find additional luck going up against New England’s 30th ranked run defense. Obviously first and second down will be very important to see who commands the line of scrimmage in this conflict.
Take away the explosive T.Y. Hilton and Luck is tossing the pigskin to ordinary pass catchers. This is where cornerback Aqib Talib comes into play. All season when healthy, Talib has the size and athleticism to contain any receiver in the league and if he locks up Hilton, New England’s chances are greatly enhanced to win.
With all the injuries to key players, Bill Belichick has pieced together a defense which thrives on generating negative plays and cannot let Luck escape for positive run yardage.
NFL Football Playoffs Edge – Indianapolis by one point
New England Offense vs. Indianapolis Defense
The Patriots defensive line has one monstrous task, try and contain the Colts Robert Mathis. The defensive end led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and has been utilized differently in moving around the defensive line, seeking weaknesses and generally creating mayhem.
New England’s offensive line is banged up and will have to be on full alert with Mathis all night long.
Other than Mathis, there is little to fear from Indianapolis on this side of the ball as Kansas City proved last week.
The Chiefs abused the Colts secondary on slant and seam routes virtually the entire contest, which happens to be two of Tom Brady’s preferred ways to pass the pigskin down the field. Brady will look for his two favorite targets Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, but the difference-maker could be another pass catcher.
Sage NFL football handicappers have realized the Indy secondary struggles with big receivers and rookie Aaron Dobson fits the bill for New England. Patriots’ offensive coaches will test the Colts last line of defense with him down the field.
The other element is New England’s two-headed rushing monster of Stevan Ridley and LaGarrette Blount. This duo has helped the Pats average 168.3 yards a game in their past three contests and if they get rolling, the Colts are in big trouble.
NFL Football Playoffs Edge – New England by seven points
Understanding the Intangibles
While is not widely reported, New England has the full respect of sportsbooks playing at home and is a 3.5 to 4-point choice when they take the field at Gillette Stadium. The Colts are a solid 9-7 and 8-7-1 ATS in away games the past two years and that deserves some consideration.
Nonetheless, for those making NFL picks, you cannot ignore all the emotion Indianapolis had to use to engineer their remarkable comeback last week. It would seem virtually impossible to muster anywhere close to the same emotional state, unless the Patriots start committing turnovers and helping the Indianapolis.
NFL Football Playoffs Edge – New England by 3.5 points
NFL Pick – New England by 9.5 points