NFL AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
Indianapolis Colts (11-5, 5-3 away) @ New England Patriots (12-4, 8-0 home) 01/11- 8:15PM EST
Line: NEW -7.0
Luck was definitely on the Indianapolis Colts side last week in their wild wild-card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, but can they go into Foxboro on Saturday night and beat a team that handed them their worse defeat of the season?
The Colts (12-5) will be looking to carry that momentum after last week’s thrilling 28-point come from behind victory over the Chiefs, but second-year quarterback Andrew Luck will need another big game performance in which he threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns but also had three interceptions.
“It was a tremendous effort coming back in the second half,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “They did good in all three areas of the game. This is a team that is well coached, that’s had a real good season. They beat some of the best teams in the league, in both the AFC and the NFC. They’ve just been impressive.”
Andrew Luck and the Colts are 14-2 in games decided by seven points or less but back on Nov. 18, the Patriots (12-4) blasted the Colts 59-24. Tom Brady was stellar in that game going 24 of 35 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Luck was 27 of 50 for 334 yards, two scores and three interceptions.
“I don’t want to dwell too much on last year,” Luck said. “They do a great job of forcing turnovers, getting to the quarterback. We know it’s going to be a dogfight.”
Luck will look to his main target, receiver T.Y Hilton on Sunday after he caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s game, but how effective he will be against two of the best defenders in the game in the likes of Aqib Talib and rookie Logan Ryan remains to be seen.
Even with the Pats having a first-round bye, they still have injury issues to their linebackers, who will dress only six for Sundays game including Dane Fletcher in place of Brandon Spikes.
“Everybody has to step up,” Fletcher said. “Everybody’s role kind of increases on defense, especially in the linebacker unit.”
On offense, New England hasn’t been the same with Rob Gronkowski out for the year after seeing action in only seven games, and Wes Walker playing now for Denver. Brady had his lowest passer rating of 87.3 since the 2003 season.
So with Brady not having a typical “Brady” year, look for the Patriots to run, run, run as Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount combined for 1,545 yards and 14 touchdowns. Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen have also contributed to the Pats’ ground attack.
“It’s a heck of a challenge,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of trying to stop the Patriots running backs.
Indianapolis is also suffering with some injuries on defense with starting cornerback Greg Toler (groin) and defensive end Fili Moala out and safety LaRon Landry dealing with a concussion, but is expected to play.
These two teams know each other well having met 10 straight times in the regular season and with the home team winning all three times in the postseason with the Patriots winning twice, the oddsmakers have made the home Patriots a (minus -7.0) point favorite, but get the latest spread on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.
As much as I’ve liked the Colts this season, I will have to agree with the oddsmakers and also favor the Patriots to win and advance to next week’s AFC championship game.
Indianapolis signed former New England receiver and former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch in place of Darrius Heyward-Bay who injured his hamstring in last week’s game.
Prediction/Pick: New England
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter