AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs Indianapolis Colts Game Preview and Prediction

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Nov 10, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener (80) during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Rams won 38-8. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

While the New England Patriots have improved in the secondary, head coach Bill Belichick may find himself getting a taste of his own medicine with the Colts and their tight-end and running back heavy approach on offense. With Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen (who injured his ankle early in the week eleven match-up) and Jack Doyle the Colts have a swiss army knife at tight end with stretch-the-field receiver (Fleener); massive red zone threat (Allen), and blocker with better hands than expected (Doyle).


According to ESPN Stats & Information the Patriots have given up the third-most passing yards to opposing tight ends this season (1,006) and last week against the Ravens was no exception as Owen Daniels had a few catches up the seam against the zone defense. New England had better success once linebacker Jamie Collins singled-up on Daniels.  Fleener had 7 catches for 144 yards in week eleven against New England and beat cornerback Brandon Browner for 5 of those catches (per PFF).


In the last matchup, the Patriots were forced to move Darrelle Revis from T.Y. Hilton to cover Reggie Wayne as the veteran wide receiver was torching Logan Ryan and picking apart the zone coverage. Once Revis got on Wayne, he shut him down holding him to just one catch for five yards on five targets (per PFF). New England moved slot receiver Kyle Arrington to Hilton and the veteran played one of his best games of the season shutting down the big-play threat (with help from safety Devin McCourty). Hilton had just three catches for a season-worst 24 yards in the loss to New England in week eleven.


Look for New England to cover the Colts with Revis on Hilton as originally planned, Browner on Wayne (who has faded down the stretch), Ryan on veteran Hakeem Nicks, Arrington on emerging rookie Donte Moncrief, and Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung on Fleener and any other tight end on the field.


Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Dan Herron (36) is pursued by Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) during the second quarter in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In week eleven in Indianapolis the Colts were out-rushed by New England 246 to 19. The 19 looks worse when Luck had 15 of those yards on scrambles. The pair of running backs for the Colts at that time–Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson–gained a total of 4 yards on 13 rushes. While the Colts running game with backs Dan Herron and Zurlon Tipton is not going to grind out long drives on the ground, Herron has been a weapon in the passing game.


Herron has been targeted by Luck 19 times in the playoffs with 18 receptions for 117 yards in the two games. New England absolutely has to account for the soft hands of Herron who can extend drives on a checkdown on third down.


The Colts offensive line has some question marks despite holding up well last week against Denver’s strong pass rush. Starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus is on injured reserve and veteran back-up Joe Reitz is able to be beaten. New England should look to get outside linebacker Akeem Ayers on the field in passing situations to attack Reitz in place of Rob Ninkovich.


Inside, the Patriots need a strong performance from Vince Wilfork collapsing the pocket against second-year center Khaled Holmes. Holmes took over in week sixteen and presents an opportunity for New England to exploit as he has been shaky, particularly in pass protection. New England was still without Chandler Jones in their win against the Colts in November. Jones garnered a lot of attention from Baltimore in finding tight ends and backs helping block him in pass protection and being run at in the running game.