A review of the Boston media coverage of the upcoming divisional round would have you think that the New England Patriots are set to take on a junior varsity team, not an 11-5 division winner riding high off an amazing 28 point playoff comeback. You would not think the Patriots were about to take on a team that’s beaten the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Denver Broncos. Two of those teams won their divisions and all three are still alive in the playoffs. While some would have you believe that the Colts are over matched by the Patriots, let’s take a look at three important reasons the Colts should not be taken lightly (as if the Patriots coaching staff would let that happen anyway).
Yes, the Colts turned the ball over four times in their thrilling win last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. But throughout the course of the season, this team has protected the ball just about as well as any other team in the league. The Colts led the league with only 14 turnovers throughout the regular season and were 5th in the AFC in takeaways. They excel at protecting the football and forcing turnovers and generally that leads to great success in the NFL.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano wears his emotions on his sleeve and that trickles down to his players. His quarterback is the same way and their defense plays with a lot of energy. When you play a Chuck Pagano coached team you can be absolutely certain it will play at a high intensity level and with a lot of emotion. Teams that play with passion and energy are dangerous in the NFL and particularly in the playoffs. The Patriots should be ready to match the Colts’ intensity on Saturday night if they want to come away with a win.
The Colts were one of the least penalized teams in the NFL in 2013. They were penalized only 70 times throughout the regular season (3rd fewest in the league) for only 595 yards (second fewest in the league). Simply put, the Chuck Pagano has his team playing very disciplined football and that’s what you want in January on the road. The Colts will have to eliminate the kinds of mistakes they made in the first half of the wild card round and get back to the disciplined style of football they played in the regular season if they hope to succeed at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
What all this really means is that the Indianapolis Colts play a similar style of football to another team we know well: the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick preaches the importance of protecting the football and avoiding penalties. There may be no more emotional quarterback in the NFL than Tom Brady and that emotion infects the rest of the Patriots players. While many pundits may be predicting a mismatch in favor of New England, what’s more likely is that the disciplined nature of both of these teams will keep this game close. Both teams showed an ability to win close games in the regular season, so this game may simply come down to which team has possession of the football last.