As the decade’s biggest rivalry is renewed this Sunday, the Colts and Patriots match-up is the headliner around the NFL this weekend.  This will be the last time these teams play each other in this decade as the 2010-year is rapidly coming to a close. The Colts are figuratively and metaphorically limping into Foxboro this weekend because of their injury riddled roster.  Since the Colts are missing some key contributors and the Patriots are dealing with roster turnover, this game already seems to be different than in years past. Never the less, I would like to share some quick points to keep in mind for the upcoming game.

  • Take away Reggie Wayne– With all the injuries the Colts are dealing with on their current roster, their offense has taken a few steps back. Wayne has been the one consistent target for Manning all year and has already caught 63 balls for over 750 yards. The Patriots defense needs to double cover Wayne and attempt to take him away from Manning. Taking away Manning’s one reliable target could throw their offense out of sync early and lead to frustration on the Colts sideline.
     
  • Run the ball- The Patriots are not a great rushing team and they haven’t seen a tremendous amount of success since the Corey Dillon era. However, the Patriots seem to run the ball just enough to open up their style of offense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has emerged as the Patriots lead rusher in 2010. With Danny Woodhead’s progression and Fred Taylor’s potential return from injury, the Pats may have a chance to take advantage of one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Colts are 29th against the run this year, averaging 133.2 yards per game allowed. If the Patriots want to establish long and stable drives, the running game should help that develop.
     
  • Get in Peyton Manning’s face – Peyton Manning has experienced tremendous success throughout football career. Obvious statements aside, a large reason for that is knowing when to get rid of the football.  Peyton is one of the best in the NFL at knowing when to get rid of the ball and having a great awareness in the pocket. It will be hard to sack him, as he is annually one of the least sacked in the league, but with the added pressure schemes and blitzes the defense showed last week, the team could have success.
     
  • Prepare for Mathis and Freeney – Maybe the ultimate factor of the entire game. Or should I say two factors? Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney have been forcing havoc on opposing quarterbacks for years now. Containing these two elite edge rushers will be critical if the Patriots want to have success on Sunday. Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer will have their hands full and if they cannot get the job done, Tom Brady’s jersey may not be as clean as it was last Sunday.
     
  • Don’t take your foot off the gas – If the Patriots get off to an early lead, I hope they keep their foot on the gas – meaning I do not want them to relax by playing prevent defense and conservative offense. We saw what can happen if they do just that last week in the forth quarter against the Steelers. The Patriots need to continue to play smart and disciplined football. Time of possession will be key in keeping Manning on the sideline and delivering solid offensive drives down the Colts throat.

With all of these thoughts taken into consideration, I believe the Patriots can and will win this game on Sunday afternoon. There seem to be a lot of favorable match-ups for the Pats and they are playing at home. Even though 4 out of the last 5 games played by these two teams have been decided by a touchdown or less, my prediction is Patriots – 27 Colts – 17.