Sunday's Game of the Week

Posted by Posted by Rich Brown On 3:55 PM

Game of the Week: New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

It’s the first half of November, which means one big thing for the NFL. The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts will be squaring off against one another. Every year, for the November Sweeps period on TV, the NFL treats the fans, and the networks, to arguably their biggest rivalry. Brady vs. Manning, Pats vs. Colts. Their battles, in the regular season and playoffs, have been epic contests. Tom Brady is 5-2 in the regular season against the Colts, so his teams have had a bit of an edge in the match-up.

Peyton Manning has been able to shred most defenses through the air, but Bill Belichick’s defensive schemes have frustrated Manning consistently throughout his career. Obviously, the goal for the Patriots is to keep things status-quo for this game. Manning will be looking to continue his success from this season, leading his offense to a 409-yard average per game. With Donald Brown returning from injury this week, adding to a lineup already including Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and newcomer Austin Collie. It will be a formidable task for the Pats defense to keep them under wraps.

On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady certainly looks to be returning to his pre-injury form. His hookups with Randy Moss can lead to explosive offense, while finding Wes Welker regularly guarantees that the chains will be moving on third down. Lawrence Maroney will need to keep the Colts’ front seven at bay, not allowing Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney to get an effective pass rush. The New England offensive line has been solid, but Freeney is a world-class defensive end, and with the very good Mathis on the other side, it could provide fits for Brady.

The problem for the Indianapolis defense, however, is that they are missing three of their four starters in their defensive backfield. They have likely gotten used to missing Bob Sanders from their lineup. But, with two more starters out, Brady may be able to pick apart that weakened secondary, leading to some high scoring for New England.

Impact Player: Matt Stover, K, Indianapolis Colts

Typically, games between the Colts and Patriots come down to a single possession or single play. Six of the eleven games (including playoffs) between the two teams since 2001 have been within 7 points. Adam Vinatieri has been on both sides of this rivalry, often deciding those games with his kicking. Vinatieri, however, is out due to injury for the Colts, leaving the former long-time Baltimore Raven to fill in. Stover is capable of making pressure kicks, but his range certainly has been shrinking in the last couple of years. Will he be able to make a 40-yard kick (or more) in the fourth quarter? That may very well decide the fate of this game.

Impact Stat: Indianapolis Pass Offense (315 YPG) vs. New England Pass Defense (179 YPG)

As mentioned, Peyton Manning has been dominant passing the ball against just about every team he’s faced this season. However, this will be one of the stiffest tests he’s faced all season long. Belichick utilizes his players defensively just as well as any coach in the league. And it is well-documented that he has Manning’s number. If the Colts offense is as successful as they have been this year, they will be tough to beat. However, if the Patriots keep that number closer to 200, they will be set for a road win.

Prediction: New England- 31, Indianapolis- 27

Indianapolis comes into this contest without a loss, but with all their defensive injury issues, it is tough to see them walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium remaining unbeaten. Tom Brady is an expert at picking apart weakened defenses. This Indy defense is certainly a classic case of that, and New England will take advantage, leading to a tight victory.

By C.J. Griger for NFLandCollegeFootball.com

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