By Jeff Kane
Follow Jeff on Twitter @BostonFatGuy
Sunday night the New England Patriots will head to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts, 272 days since they last faced off in the AFC Championship game. Surely this will be the most watch Sunday Night Football game of the season, and why not, these are the two finalists in the AFC Championship game last year. A fact that the Colts love to boast about. Which goes to show many casual observers that the Colts are proud of finishing in fourth place. The Colts of course helped set off the deflate-gate allegations some nine months ago. So Sunday night will be a battle of what some will perceive as good vs evil, depending on what side you are rooting for.
After an off season full of nonsense about PSI in footballs, rehashing spygate and the Patriots legacy this game could not come at a better time. Sunday night brings the entire deflate gate controversy full circle. The two teams that were involved now finally get to face off against each other. The Pats sit atop the AFC east at 4-0 and have played some inspired football to begin the season. Tom Brady has been as good as ever at chucking the ball all over the place and is playing at his normal high level. The Colts for the second season in a row, they had started 0-2 before turning things around. They now have won three in a row and are in first place in a very weak AFC South.
The Colts are looking to prove something versus New England. They need to win this game to finally get confidence in Andrew Luck that he can beat the Patriots, or at least stay close. Luck, who most likely will play Sunday night versus the Patriots has been out the past two weeks with a shoulder injury. His career statistics in four games against New England are dreadful. His team has been outscored by an average of 47 to 18. Luck’s average stat line versus the Pats is 20.5 of 41 for 274 yards, 1.5 touchdowns and 2.5 interceptions.
This game is more than New England versus Indianapolis, this game is the Patriots versus the world. The legacy of the Patriots has been under attack since Spygate. Deflategate was considered a makeup call in a well publicized article for ESPN The Magazine. The article gave no “new” information. It however continued to keep the “Patriots are cheaters memorandum going. Released two days before the Patriots season began, it was another attempt to blacken the eye of the defending champion. The Patriots to their credit have kept their mouth shut and just played the game. Others not so much.
Joe Montana, probably feeling the heat that Tom Brady may surpass his ring total.
I guess Joe would know a thing or two about cheating, as he admitted to his offensive lineman using silicone on their shirts until they got caught.
Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star, who just wont let go of the story.
Claiming in an article this week that the Colts don’t “play, coach or cheat” as well as the Patriots. Well turns out that the Colts do cheat. They were caught pumping in crowd noise against the Patriots. The league exonerated the Colts of any wrong doing, but anyone who has heard the tape knows the truth.
Doyel goes on to say “The Patriots rigged the AFC title game. Cheated the Colts. Cheated you”. Doyel would know a thing or two about rigging NFL games, The Colts lost on purpose in their “Suck for Luck” Season. Unfortunately there is no scientific proof on this.
Speaking of science.
Old friend Roger Goodell, continues to defend the fact that he and the NFL are still appealing the decision of Judge Richard Berman. Goodell continues to think that the Patriots and/or Tom Brady cheated. He had this to say at a recent event.
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for Tom. I know him personally. As I say, I admire him tremendously. He is a future Hall of Fame player. But our rules apply to everybody. They apply to every single player. And every single player expects those rules to apply to everybody. Every coach does. Every fan does. Every partner, every team does”.
Roger is right the rules do apply to everyone. So why wasn’t Andrew Luck and the Colts fined or suspended, when the science of the ideal gas law showed Colts balls deflated at the same rate as the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game?
I guess old Rog only uses science when it benefits him, like when the subject of brain injuries comes up.
“Those are things that the scientists, again, they’ll have to make those decisions at some point in time. But I think there’s a lot of science that still needs to be done, because one thing we’ve determined and been able to work with medical professionals on, there’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to brain injuries”.
Regardless, of all the hoopla coming up for Sunday Night Football, there is still a game to be played. A game the Patriots should win, but as they say any given Sunday. When breaking down this game, the Patriots and Colts will be playing for a lot more than revenge. A victory by the Patriots and the Colts will have three losses on their hands, and despite a very bad division, will have a uphill battle to make it back to the AFC Championship game. For the Pats a loss to the Colts put Indy right back in the drivers seat, and takes away the mental edge the Patriots have held.
This game has many intriguing one on one match-ups to breakdown. The Pats have put two good players on injured reserve this week in starting Left Tackle Nate Solder, and Cornerback Tarell Brown. The loss of Brown, may be the biggest for this game, as the Colts certainly have the weapons for Andrew Luck. With TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Andre Johnson, available to catch the ball from Luck, this is a match-up concern. Malcolm Butler will most likely mirror Hilton for most of the night. Moncrief has the ability to be a solid number two receiver, and the thought of Logan Ryan matching up against either him or Johnson is not exciting. Expect team defense and on the night. The Pats will need help from their safeties in all of their assignments. The Patriots may opt to play more zone defense and bring extra pressure against the Colts, whose offensive line has not been spectacular at pass protection this season.
The Patriots will be without Donta Hightower Sunday, as he was ruled out of action for the game. This is a blow for the Patriots as he is one of their best defenders. In his stead the Patriots last week used Jerod Mayo and Jonathan Freeny in a rotation Mayo is still coming back from his PCL injury and has yet to hit his stride. Before the last two seasons that have been cut short by injury, Mayo was a tackling machine. For the Patriots to stop the Colts in the run game, Mayo will need to return to form. He will most likely split time with Freeny and newly acquired linebacker Jon Bostic. Without Hightower, Will Jamie Collins be as effective? If Luck is 100% this will be the Patriots biggest challenge of the season.
When the Patriots are on offense they look to have the edge. Despite the loss of Nate Solder on the offensive line, Marcus Cannon has played well. The Patriots have also called up Cameron Flemming from their practice squad. The Colts have been trampled in the past by the Patriots run game. The Pats can continue that trend and have the thunder and lightning attack of Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount try and break down the Colts front. The Colts have been better against the run this season, as they are only allowing 3.8 yards per carry on the season. That number is impressive, yet they are still giving up 112 yards per game. The Colts defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in defense. The Patriots have the option of running and passing against them. The thought here is that the Patriots will attack in a balance fashion and limit the Colts chances with the ball. As twitter follower @PatriotsFans1 pointed out earlier in the week, “football is more than just, offense and defense”. He is right, the Patriots need to have their offense help, their depleted defense this week. Allowing the offense to chew up the clock and keep the ball out of Indianapolis’ hands will ultimately lead to victory.
While most in New England are predicting a blowout win for the Patriots, the feeling here is this is a closer than expected game. With the Patriots hanging on to win this one 34-28. Watch the sidelines if Tom Brady should throw a pick, as the rumors have started that Jim Irsay’s own chemist is at the game to test any under inflated ball.