It’s taken a while, but it seems like the rivalry between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots is about to open a new chapter, and there’s no better place to establish it than in a divisional playoff game.
This is the second time the two meet in the Andrew Luck era. Last season the Patriots beat the Colts 59-24, as Brady went 24 of 35 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while Luck was 27 of 50 for 334 yards, two scores and three INTs. Does it mean anything for this game? No, especially for the Colts, who are a completely different team.
What does matter? That Luck is and the Colts are 14-2 in games that are decided by 7 points or less and despite his three interceptions last week against the Chiefs, he engineered an impressive comeback from a seemingly hopeless situation. The Patriots have seen their fair share of bad situations at home this season, mounting impressive comebacks time after time, with Brady forgetting about how badly he played early on to engineer impressive fourth quarter performances. Brady finished the season with a 87.3 passer rating, his lowest since 2003.
Andrew Luck is playing on the road in the postseason for the second time in his career, and his numbers this season away from home have been very encouraging. He has completed 59.5% of his passes (as opposed to 53.1%), his TD-INT has improved to +8 from a -3 last season and he was sacked only 11 times as opposed to 28 in his rookie campaign.
Luck doesn’t have Reggie Wayne to help him, just like Brady doesn’t have Rob Gronkowski, but Luck has adjusted by going to T.Y. Hilton, who has caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs last week. There’s no actual running game for the Colts right now, but the defense the Patriots have is plagued with injuries, which puts even more pressure on Aqib Talib and Logan Ryan to hold up the secondary.
How meaningful is it that Brandon Spikes isn’t playing? According to ESPN and their controversial QBR system, the Patriots allow a QBR of 44.1 with him on the field as opposed to 59.7 without him. At some point, all these injuries on both sides of the ball will have to start influencing them, even in their home stadium where they’re undefeated in 2013 (8-0).
One things the Colts are counting on to stop Brady and the Pats strong running offense (Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount combined for 1,545 yards and 14 touchdowns this season) is Robert Mathis, who has 19.5 sacks this season.
Prediction – There’s something about these Colts this season, especially in games they’re not supposed to win. The New England Patriots have the same aura about them, but at some point all these injuries and Tom Brady’s inconsistent play has to come into effect. Despite playing at home once again, the Patriots have had their fair share of disappointments in the postseason over the last few years even before getting to the Super Bowl. This feels like one of those games.