We are only two days away from the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts taking the field in the first of two AFC divisional matchups (grab your New England Patriots tickets now from PrimeSport) and I think we will be in for an awesome football game. Both of these teams will come out firing, and it will definitely come down to the wire.
Every single NFL game has a few matchups that alter the game’s result, and that no different in this playoff tilt. Here are three matchups that will have an impact on this game.
1. Robert Mathis vs. Nate Solder/Marcus Cannon
This single matchup could really decide the outcome of this contest. The Colts defense isn’t very good, but Mathis is a guy that can hurt the opposing offense. He led the NFL in sacks this year, as he posted 19.5, and if he has to, he will try to win this game by himself. If Tom Brady has time in the pocket, he will find open receivers. The Colts secondary has been bad all year long, and even though the Pats offense is beat up, they will be able to win that particular matchup. But if Mathis gets to Brady, the complexion of this game will change. Brady will be skittish in the pocket, he won’t be able to pick apart the Indianapolis defense, and I guarantee there will be some New England turnovers. That is why Solder and Cannon must contain Mathis, because if he gets going, the Pats may not advance to the AFC Championship Game.
2. T.Y. Hilton vs. Aqib Talib/Alfonzo Dennard/Kyle Arrington
Keeping Hilton under control is a huge key for the Patriots defense, but we don’t know how they will go about defending him. Aqib Talib is one of the best cornerbacks this league has to offer, but he has shown in the past that he struggles with smaller receivers, who can really turn on the jets. Bill Belichick has been known to take away your best offensive threat, and I think we should expect Hilton to have a quiet game this Saturday night. Kyle Arrington is probably the fastest defensive back the Pats have, although he has a reputation for getting burned on the outside. Alfonzo Dennard may be New England’s best man coverage player, which would lead us to believe that he could see some action defending Hilton. No matter what the Pats do, they have to make sure Hilton is under their watchful eye, because if you let him run wild in the secondary, the Colts offense will have a big day.
3. Pats Running Backs vs. Colts Front Seven
I personally don’t think that this matchup will be a close one, because the New England running game is currently on fire, while the Colts run defense has struggled all year long. LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley do the heavy lifting for the Pats, as they pound away at the opposing defensive front, and then Shane Vereen comes into the ballgame on third down, where he becomes a dominant force in the passing game. Blount has been one of the best running backs in the NFL over the last few weeks, as his combination of power and speed is killer to the opposition. I think he will continue his torrid pace in this game, possibly even making a big contribution on special teams. If the Patriots can run the football, not only will they open up a lot of things for Brady and the passing game, but they will be able to score touchdowns when they get into the red zone, instead of settling for Stephen Gostkowski field goals.