No matter what Tom Brady may say, Sunday night’s game is a chance to get revenge for both teams. The Patriots will want to make the Colts pay for starting the Deflategate fiasco. Meanwhile, Indianapolis will be looking to avenge their last three devastating losses to the Patriots, especially the lopsided 45-7 AFC Championship game defeat they suffered in January. Tom Brady and the Patriots have taken the fight to their accusers this season, wreaking havoc on the league for the Deflategate saga. The Patriots are unbeaten after defeating Pittsburgh on opening day before knocking Rex Ryan down a peg in Buffalo. The Patriots then dominated Jacksonville before going to Jerry’s World after a bye week and stunning the Cowboys last Sunday. Meanwhile, the Colts have struggled so far this season. They lost their first two games against Buffalo and the Jets before narrowly beating the upstart Tennessee Titans 35-33. With Andrew Luck out with a separated throwing shoulder, Matt Hasselbeck led the Colts to wins over Jacksonville and Houston as the Colts sit atop the dismal AFC South at 3-2.
Three Keys to the Game
- Andrew Luck’s health.
The Colts lost the AFC Championship game badly with a healthy Andrew Luck. After missing two games through injury, Luck is set to return Sunday night. But is he at 100%? And even if he is, can he stay that way behind what is still a woeful offensive line?
- Indy’s run defense.
Everything the Colts did this offseason was geared towards beating the Patriots. After allowing 177 yards on the ground in the AFC title game, GM Ryan Grigson went out and picked up a bunch of veterans to help reinforce the team, like former Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. But so far, Grigson’s veterans have failed to make much of an impact. The Colts have allowed 112 yards per game on the ground, and don’t look equipped to stop New England’s one-two backfield punch of Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount.
- New England’s pass rush and secondary.
With an All-Star lockdown corner last season with Darelle Revis, the Patriots held the Colts to just seven points in the AFC title game despite Indy’s stable of weapons. With more pickups for Andrew Luck to target this offseason, the Patriots will have to battle a talented receiver corps with a no-name secondary. Yet the Patriots have been fairly good at defending the pass, largely thanks to a strong pass rush. New England has 16 sacks this season, tied with the Steelers for fourth-most in the league. Indy’s porous offensive line will have a tough time keeping Luck upright.
Match-up to watch
Malcolm Butler vs T.Y. Hilton – After his Super Bowl heroics, Butler has taken over New England’s number one corner spot after Darelle Revis left to return to the Jets. Butler has played fairly well against tough receivers like Antonio Brown. T.Y. Hilton has had injury struggles this season, but is still Luck’s go-to target. Butler may be the outlet, but it will be Bill Belichick scheming against Indy’s stocked stable of receiving weapons.
With Luck struggling even when he hasn’t been injured behind a poor offensive line, expect New England’s defense to find a way to ground Indy’s aerial attack. The dominant front seven should give Luck plenty of problems. Tom Brady will continue his MVP-calibre form against a still-weak Colts defense that has managed just six sacks. Indianapolis has failed to close the gap to the Patriots, and that will show up clearly on Sunday night.
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