It’s Thursday night and the Patriots will look for their first winning streak of the season, hosting the Indianapolis Colts. The Pats have had the Colts number since Andrew Luck entered the NFL in 2011 winning all 5 matchups including playoff matchups in 2013 and 2014. Luck’s QB rating of 87.7 takes a hard fall to 65.1 in his career against Belichick and company. The games haven’t been that close leading most in the NFL community to declare this former rivalry to be dead; I tend to agree. With that in mind here is are the keys to the Patriots making it 6 straight against Luck.
- Get the Patriots defense off the field – The Patriots are at their best when they’re playing good complementary football and when Tom Brady’s offense is dictating tempo. In their two losses they’ve also lost the time of possession battle; they’ve had the edge in time of possession in their two wins. The offense is a timing offense and the more plays they run the more effective and efficient they seem to be (think the superbowl comeback against Atlanta in 2017). If the Patriots defense can have a good day on third downs I think the team wins handily.
- Score first – Playing with a lead against a banged up Indy offense will go a long way towards a W. Asking Luck to keep up with Brady shot for shot is a fool’s errand so if the Pats score first they should be in good shape. Playing with a lead will force Luck to throw a lot and he’s only averaging 6.05 yards per attempt, lowest in the NFL for starting QBs (Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor and Sam Bradford are worse but all players are now riding the pine). With the Colts predictable and their personnel limited the Patriots should be able control the clock and tempo of the game and win rather comfortably.
- Run the ball effectively – The Patriots have gashed the Colts on the ground since Luck has been with the team and I’m guessing they will attempt to establish the run Thursday night. This will also let the team ease Edelman back into the game with a lower snap count, allowing him to be more efficient. Also I think the run will be there as the Colts must honor Gronk up the seam and Josh Gordon deep down the field.
Bottom Line: The Colts are in rough shape health-wise with TY Hilton, Marlon Mack and Jack Doyle all inactive. It’s tough enough to keep up with Tom Brady and the offense in New England at full strength so the Colts are already fighting an uphill battle. The Patriots are close to full strength on offense for the first time this year and should be able to move the ball at will against a middling defense (ranked 14th out of 32 teams in yards allowed). If I were a gambler I’d certainly look at taking the Patriots!
Here’s a Throwback Thursday for you. It’s a few Gronk highlights from the 2014 Colts/Patriots tilt. Enjoy!
Fantasy Play of the Night:
Chris Hogan, NE, WR
He’s had a disappointing year so far but I expect him to really light it up tonight as the team’s 4th or 5th option. He produced in a similar role last year before getting injured and I expect him to do the same tonight.
Nyheim Hines, Ind, RB
Hines is a pass catching back coming off a monster game last week. With the Colts expected to play from behind they’ll be passing a lot and he’ll be a main beneficiary of this and Luck’s 6.05 YPA.