It’s that time of year again. It’s the game where the two greatest quarterbacks of the past decade will face off in a battle that has AFC playoff implications. This year, both quarterbacks are playing without their usual Pro Bowl teammates. Tom Brady is without Randy Moss and is relying heavily on two rookie tight ends and receiver,Brandon Tate, who is in his first full year of playing time. As for Peyton Manning, he has suffered numerous injuries to teammates Dallas Clark, Antonio Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Joseph Addai, and Mike Hart that has caused him to play with basically a practice squad offense. Yet, Manning is still having a MVP type of year and remains a threat to New England’s defense.
The Patriots had their best win of the season last Sunday night in Heinz Field over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-26. The defense was the big story as they actually got pressure on a quarterback by sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times. Tom Brady had his best game of the year with four total touchdowns and 350 passing yards against one of the top defenses in the NFL. Now, Brady has a chance to make history this weekend by going for his 25th straight regular season home win, which would tie Brett Favre for the best streak ever.
Here are my keys to this epic showdown in Foxborough:
1. Pierre Garcon: With all the injuries to the Colts’ receiving corps, especially Austin Collie, teams have put two or three defenders on star wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Last year, Pierre Garcon was the number two receiver for Indy with 47 catches for 765 yards and four touchdowns. This year, Garcon has half those catches with only one touchdown. If Indy can’t get production from him, they will have to put more of a reliance on tight end Jacob Tamme. This would be a huge advantage to New England’s secondary.
2. Indy’s Run Defense: Stopping the run has been an issue that has haunted the defense of the Colts for a number of years. This season began with Arian Foster of the Houston Texans running for over 200 yards in Week 1. Currently, the Colts are ranked 29th in run defense out of 30 teams. Enter in to the equation BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Last weekend, New England ran for over one hundred yards against the number one rush defense in the league. This, in turn, set up the play-action for Tom Brady and allowed him to complete throws with relative ease. With Indy banged up in the secondary, Brady can have a field day using play-action again if he gets contributions from the running game.
3. Patrick Chung: Last week, safety, Pat Chung, had his best game of the season since the show he put on in Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins. Against the Steelers, Chung had 11 tackles and a pass deflection. Having Chung on the field makes a huge difference for the Patriots defense. In the two games he missed before last Sunday, Brett Favre and Colt McCoy were able to move the ball against the Patriots’ secondary. Chung sets the tone for the defense by not allowing the oppostion to make big play without delivering a punishing hit in return. Also of note are his two interceptions this year which can potentially set up valuable field position for Brady and the offense. If any Patriot is going to have an impact game defensively against Peyton, my frontrunner for that honor would go to Chung.
Prediction: I have seen a ton of experts say it would take a miracle for the Colts to beat New England on the road without most of their offensive weapons this weekend. For some reason, I disagree with his thought process. Whenever you have number 18 as your quarterback, it is the same as having number 12, in terms of never being out of a game.
Last week, the Patriots’ defense took a step in the right direction against the Steelers by getting after the quarterback. Against Manning, that is always the formula for success and this is where I think Gary Guyton could play another big role this week. I believe this contest will come down to the final possessions of the game. I expet Tom Brady will once again have a nice game where and that we’ll see some big plays to get Aaron Hernandez involved after having zero catches against the Steelers.
Indy has won four of the last five against New England, but I think the Pats are able to break this trend and get a historic win for Brady.
Patriots 27 Colts 24