Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) shakes hands after the game with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) at Lucas Oil Stadium. New England defeated Indianapolis 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday evening as the battle for the representative for the AFC in the Super Bowl is down to two franchises which have been among the most successful of this century. While the Patriots have quarterback Tom Brady behind center still after a decade-and-a-half, the Colts jettisoned franchise quarterback Peyton Manning in favor of another “can’t miss” number-one overall draft pick in Andrew Luck. In just three seasons Luck has the Colts back to knocking on the door of the Super Bowl after the Indianapolis defense stopped Manning and his Denver Broncos last week.
There have been two camps of Patriots fans: those who are confident that New England will roll against the Colts; and those who worry that the Colts defense–particularly in the secondary–and maturing super-stardom of Luck which manifested on the road in Denver last week will catch the Patriots overconfident on Sunday.
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
So far in three seasons the Patriots have defeated Indianapolis and Luck in all three match-ups. In fact, in those three games New England’s defense has sacked Luck five times, intercepted him eight times, and won all three games by an average of 29 points (all stats from NFL.com unless otherwise noted).
Of course, the Colts held the mighty Broncos offense to under 300 total yards last week. Luck passed for 265 yards and the Colts rushed for 99 yards against a star-studded Denver defense. The Colts were hardly perfect as they had a missed field goal and had two interceptions turned into scoring drives by Denver, yet still won 24-13 to advance to the AFC Championship Game and a trip to cold and rainy Foxboro, MA.
After last week against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round when New England had to twice claw back from 14 point deficits, there are questions still surrounding the Patriots: On offense, the running game remains a question mark as they never got a chance to unveil it as they were behind from the opening drive and finished with just 14 yards on the ground; On defense, Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and the revamped secondary gave up 292 yards, four passing touchdowns, and had a couple of big penalties as Baltimore hung 31 on New England and gave the home team all they could handle.
So with game time fast approaching, it is time to take a final look at some of the key questions on both sides of the ball before kick-off in the game preview and finish it off with the traditional prediction.
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