New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts: Sunday Night Football - Week 6
Lucas Oil Stadium
The undefeated Patriots (4-0) will storm Lucas Oil Stadium to take on an underachieving Colts team (3-2) this Sunday. The last time these teams met was in last year's AFC Championship game. That game helped launch the biggest sports scandal in nearly a decade; Deflategate. Whether or not Patriots personnel deflated footballs to the liking of Tom Brady proved to be very much irrelevant in the 45-7 shellacking. Andrew Luck and company had a miserable day. Blame it on the rain? Although Brady attempted 35 passes in said game, LeGarrette Blount was the workhorse for the Patriots, toting the rock 30 times for nearly 150 yards and 3 touchdowns. All of that was last season. This is a new season. The Colts went out and signed veterans in Frank Gore and Andre Johnson to bolster their already potent passing attack, and put a spark into their running game. They're beginning to mesh and move the ball down the field quickly and consistently. Speaking of moving the ball, no team has ever moved the ball quite like the Patriots have this season. Tom Brady has thrown for over 1,300 yards with no interceptions through the first four games. Is this the beginning of a new Patriots dynasty, and can the Colts slow them down this time around?
New England Patriots
116/160 1,387 yards 11 TDs
36 car 180 yards 2 TDs
34 rec 399 yards 3 TDs
Patriots QB Tom Brady
65/116 753 yards 5 TDs 7 INTs
76 car 325 yards 3 TDs
27 rec 382 yards
Colts QB Andrew Luck
The Patriots offense is led by arguably the best quarterback we've ever seen, playing as well as, if not better than he's ever played. Most analyst and reporters expected Tom Brady to come out this season "guns blazing" (shout out to Greg Hardy) due largely in part to his battle with Commissioner, Roger Goodell, and the league office over Deflategate. Brady has not disappointed unless you are a fan of a team he's already crushed. He's still finding Edelman and Gronk, but the flavor of the month so far has been running back Dion Lewis. Lewis has taken the Kevin Faulk role if you will and fit himself in nicely. After missing the first game of the season due to suspension, and not receiving many touches in the second game, LeGarrette Blount looks to be back to his formidable self. Having Blount, Edelman, Gronk and Lewis all healthy, and sometimes all on the field at the same time, has caused nothing but trouble for opposing defenses. Look for that to trouble the Colts as well on Sunday.
Will Tom Brady throw an interception?
Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount
The Colts offense has finally come together. The problem is, it's not franchise quarterback Andrew Luck that's leading this team to victory, it's 40-year-old Matthew Hasselbeck! Luck injured his shoulder in a come from behind victory at Tennessee, which opened the door for Matt Hasselbeck. After wins against the division rival Jaguars and Texans, the Matt Hasselbeck led Colts are 2-0. Matt is a proven quarterback in this league who has been to Pro Bowls, won division titles, and fell just short of winning a Super Bowl. In two starts, he has completed over 63% of his passes while throwing for 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Andrew Luck on the other hand, may have picked up some bad juju from Eli Manning or Mark Sanchez. He can't seem to pass it to the right team and it's costs the Colts a couple of games already this season. It looks to be that Luck will start on Sunday. Colts fans pray that a rested and reflective Luck will pick up where Hasselbeck left off and take the offense to new heights. It all starts with ball security.
Colts WR Donte Moncrief
Key Defensive Players
32 tckls 3.5 sacks 3 FF
58 tckls 1 FF
With a healthy Robert Mathis, one is inclined to expect somewhat of a prominent pass rush. That hasn't been the case this year as the Colts as a team have only six sacks through the first five games. Mathis is responsible for just one sack this season. He's gotten to Tom Brady only five times total in the regular season over the course of ten games. Most of those years he had Dwight Freeney on the other side drawing a double team. It's been tough sledding for the Colts pass rush but with left tackle Nate Solder being placed on injured reserve with a torn bicep, Sunday night would be the time to make something happen. Someone, anyone, needs to find a way to the quarterback. If not for contract incentives, than for the Colts secondary. Indianapolis is ranked 28th in yards allowed through the air, mainly because of their pass rushing deficiency so they can only truly get better. The Colts in general aren't known for blitzing, and the linebackers have their minds wrapped up in the running game. D'Qwell Jackson leads the unit and team in tackles by a large margin. They are only ranked 19th in stopping the run but guys like Jackson and Jerrell Freeman have a way of taking over games at times and appearing seemingly out of nowhere. To survive against Brady means you have to pressure him. Are the Colts capable of generating a pass rush?
Colts LB D'Qwell Jackson
How many sacks will the Colts have?
The Patriots defense has gone somewhat under the radar this season. They're ranked 12th in total yards allowed and 8th in points allowed. The offense has been so good that unless the defense is pitching a shutout, they go unnoticed. Teams have found themselves trailing against the Patriots early and often. That means you have to scrap the gameplan and more than likely abandon the running game. More passes equals more opportunities for pass rushers, which leads to more sacks overall. The player benefitting the most from these pass rushing opportunities is former Brown, Jabaal Sheard. He leads the team with four sacks. Not far behind him is Jamie Collins with three and a half. This is key because the Patriots lost both of their starting cornerbacks to free agency in the offseason. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler hasn't played very well but with Devin McCourty behind him, he's pretty well covered. Logan Ryan is another promising young talent at the cornerback position to look out for. He's tied with Duron Harmon for most interceptions with two. This defense doesn't have to be great with Tom Brady as their quarterback, but they are. If the Patriots get a two score lead at any point this game can get ugly.
Patriots DE Jabaal Sheard
Who Will Win?
The Colts are in the worst division in football. It's hard to gauge exactly how good of a team they are when they line up against the likes of Marcus Mariota, Ryan Mallet, Brian Hoyer, and Blake Bortles. Well...... that can be a telling sign as well. If they're struggling with these teams, what makes anyone believe that they won't struggle with teams like the Bengals, Broncos, and Patriots? The Colts and Andrew Luck have everything to prove. I just don't think they have enough defensively to do it. They will come to this game fired up and ready to avenge last year's blowout, but they will falter in key moments. Tom Brady will throw his first interception of the season, and the Colts will turn it over 3 times. The Patriots win again.