By: Derek Havens
First of all, Brady and Manning, do I really need to say anymore? I am beginning to be at a loss of words for these match-ups. Another absolutely incredible finish in the NFL’s best new-age rivalry. Although I picked the Patriots to win, I did feel they would pull away by a ten-point margin in the end. New England got the win, but not without the Colts making a late game push.
Statistically, you could say the Patriots lost the game. For instance, the Colts had a 78% success rate on third down. However, the Patriots had the two most important stats on their side, they were plus three in the turnover margin and they finished with a W in the win column.
The Pats had success throughout the game in every phase. Special Teams was not the factor it has been in week’s prior, but the offense was on fire. It seems since the beginning of the Pittsburgh game, the offense has clicked. New England scored a touchdown in all three first half possessions on Sunday.
The biggest difference from this season to the previous is the defense making the plays needed to win games. They certainly illustrated that several times on Sunday afternoon, with the biggest highlight being James Sanders game clinching interception. Defensive playmaking can be contagious for teams, you can just look at the New Orleans Saints of last season to see the latest example. With the Patriots fourth in the NFL at +9 in the turnover margin, they are certainly illustrating that point.
Not only is the Patriots defensive unit making plays, the offense is regaining early season form. The Pats offense is leading the NFL in points per game at 29.4. After starting hot early in the season, the unit went through a transition period after trading Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings. While doing so however, the team maintained a 5 – 1 record and is highly regarded as one of the best teams in the league. For the last two weeks, Tom Brady has put the offense back in the drivers seat and everyone seems to be on the same page. This team will be very tough to beat if this production can continue at a consistent rate.
Through 11 weeks in this NFL season, this Patriots team is gaining momentum. However, the NFL season is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and the Pats will need to stay on pace through the next few weeks to stay relevant. With the division rival Jets around the corner, it is hard not to think about the biggest game of the Patriots season. New England cannot make that mistake again though. After the game in Cleveland a few weeks ago however, I doubt Bill Belichick would let them fall in that same trap.
With the Pats playing the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving just four days after playing the Colts, this week’s preparation is unique to say the least. On Tuesday afternoon, Bill Belichick mentioned this weeks situation, “It’s unlike any other game you’ll play for a number of years, Just the short preparation, how quick the turnaround is, basically no practice. We’re just out there walking through some stuff today, jogging through it at a low tempo. (Then we’ll) just tee up and be ready to go on Thursday. “
The Lions have not had much success the past few years to say the least. In the last 42 games they have played, they have won just 4. That number seems to be a little misleading, however if you watch their games, they are a very competitive team and can give teams a lot of trouble. Here are a few things to keep in mind for this special holiday match-up:
- Contain Calvin Johnson – If there is one weapon the Patriots need to contain during Sundays game in Detroit, it would be Calvin Johnson. He is an explosive force that is a big play waiting to happen. He is big, strong, physicial, and very fast; essentially everything a young defensive backs crew would not want to deal with. When he has the ball in his hands, be ready for anything. The Patriots defensive backs should have their hands full for all 60 minutes of game time.
- Be ready for anything and everything – Since the Lions have little talent on their roster, they have been known for opening up the playbook offensively. Between unique offensive packages and aggressive play calling, the defense could have their hands full. If the Patriots let their guard down they could get burned. After all, what does this Lions team have to lose?
- Unfamiliar foe could bring unique challenge – The Patriots and Lions do not play each other to often. With the lack of preparation and film study the team has been able to conduct through this quick turnaround, this could become a problem during the game. Another reason to shy away from penciling this as an automatic win.
- Protect Tom Brady – This game could easily be won or lost in the trenches. Whoever wins the offensive and defensive line battle should ultimately have the upper hand. This should be no easy task as the Lions have already tallied 28 team sacks through ten games this year. They have a strong defensive line led by rookie standout Ndamukong Suh who has 6.5 sacks himself. Needless to say, the offensive line should have their hands full during the game. With the Lions so weak in the defensive backfield, look for them to bring pressure early and often.
With those thoughts taken into consideration, there seem to be a lot of favorable match-ups for the Pats this Thursday. I believe the Patriots can and will win this game by a wide margin. I’ll be looking for the Patriots to come out firing on all cylinders and should continue to roll. That being said, my prediction for the game Patriots – 31, Lions – 16.