When you talk to NFL experts, the Patriots-Colts rivalry is the one that most will consider the best over the past ten years. On Sunday, it will not have the same pomp and circumstance as it did when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were squaring off against each other. On Sunday, Brady will still be there for the 8-3 Patriots coming off their 38-20 win over the Eagles, but Manning will not be. Instead, former UCONN great Dan Orlovsky will get the start for the infamously 0-11 Indianapolis Colts. For the Patriots, this is a game that they have to win and win convincingly so that the momentum can continue towards a playoff run. Plus, who doesn’t want to kick the rival when they are down?
The Colts are not just down, they have hit rock bottom. They are in the bottom five in most statistical categories in the game. Despite still having quality receivers like Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, you can tell how bad this team misses number 18 at quarterback. Their defense still has those two guys on the ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but without a secondary, they are 32nd in the league in points per game.
Here are the three keys in Foxboro this weekend:
Husky Runner: While the Colts’ biggest injury has been to their quarterback, they do not have a healthy running game either. Joseph Addai has had numerous injuries all year, but he did come back last week in their loss to the Carolina Panthers. The guy I am watching in this game is another UCONN Husky in running back Donald Brown. Brown had 89 yards and a touchdown in the loss on Sunday and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. New England shut down LeSean McCoy last week and will need to do the same to continue their success at stopping the run. Orlovsky should not hurt NE in the passing game, but it would be nice to keep Indy one-dimensional to give Brady more possessions.
Edelman the next Troy Brown: 2nd year cornerback Devin McCourty was back in practice this week for New England, so it looks like the secondary is starting to get healthier. However, we can’t go a preview without acknowledging the great job wide receiver Julian Edelman has done on the other side of the ball. Last week, he laid a huge hit on Vince Young and kept Young from scrambling into the end zone. He has five tackles this season as well. Look for Edelman to see more defensive action should this game get out of hand.
Pressure On The Ends: if the Colts are going to have any shot at winning this game, they have to get after the quarterback. The team only has 18 sacks, but their two defensive ends, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney have 11 of them. Freeney and Mathis have troubled Brady over the years and the only way for the Colts to do that again is to attack the right tackle spot due to the injury of Sebastian Vollmer. However, Nate Solder has stepped in and filled the position nicely.
PREDICTION: Usually, I like to pick close games. However, I don’t see how this game is going to be close. The Patriots are three touchdown favorites against a team who is starting a quarterback that has not won a game since he was in college back in 2004. Brady and company attack a Colts’ defense that leaves numerous holes on the field for receivers like Welker and Branch to slide into. They will cover the spread convincingly.
PATRIOTS 45 COLTS 13