Indianapolis Colts Pass Offense vs. New England Patriots Pass Defense
Andrew Luck has been just incredible as a rookie, and I don’t think I’ve seen a better rookie season since the one his predecessor put up in 1998. In fact, Luck’s rookie season might actually be better than Manning’s, because he’s been so efficient this season. Reggie Wayne has been one of the best receivers in the league this year, and that’s largely due to the resurgence of the Colts passing game with Luck under center.
The Patriots will need to watch out for the dangerous T.Y. Hilton and solid rookie TE Dwayne Allen. Donnie Avery is an inconsistent wide receiver, but he can be dangerous and burn defenses if he is not accounted for.
It will be interesting to see who gets who, but I still expect Kyle Arrington to get burned in the nickel by one of those receivers- likely Hilton. I want to see how the Pats shift around Aqib Talib, and it will also be interesting to see if he takes Avery on an island or matches up with Wayne and gets safety help. The health of Patrick Chung will impact the DB assignments, but I expect him to be out for another week.
Chandler Jones has been the Patriots only true pass rushing source, but he was blanked out last week by fellow star rookie Cordy Glenn. If that happens again, then I don’t trust the pass rush. Rob Ninkovich can play the run very well, but he is one of the worst starting pass rushers in the NFL and showed it against the Bills last week. The Colts offensive line has improved, but it’s still not consistent at providing Luck with adequate protection.
Colts Run Offense vs. Pats Run Defense
This is where the New England Patriots will own the Colts on defense, and they will make up for the terrible and uncharacteristic showing on run defense against Buffalo last week. The Pats are going to shake off the rust, and I highly doubt they will miss 15 tackles once again with the main- and likely rusty- culprit behind Steve Gregory at the back end.
The Patriots run defense is arguably the best in the NFL, while the Colts average under four yards per carry on the ground. Donald Brown is a mediocre back who should be able to get some yards, but I don’t understand why the Colts run a time split with him and rookie Vick Ballard. Brown may be nicked up with knee issues, but he is much better than Ballard.
I don’t get what the hype is with Ballard, because I think he’s awful. He averages just 3.6 yards per carry, and he’s even worse than solid short-yardage back Delonte Carter. Brown usually gets 14-12 carries on Ballard, but that split should be at least 16-10 even with Brown hurt.
The Indianapolis Colts are a solid team, but they are actually a very lucky team too. Their 6-3 record is flattering, because they have a 4.1-4.9 expected pythagorean win-loss total. That two-game deviation from actual to expected is enough to make me believe that this Colts team has been lucky at points during this season, and it’s going to be even tougher for them to win this game with a depleted secondary,
Luck will definitely be able to hit up Wayne and put some points on the board, but the running game isn’t going to be a big help for him. The Patriots offense will be able to put up even more points on the Colts subpar defense, and all signs point to another high-scoring game in Foxborough. Expect this to be a 40-33 game with the Colts making a late comeback that scares every Patriots fan in the stadium and living room alike.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.