By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots will host the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, Jan. 11 at 8:15 p.m ET in the Divisional Round of the 2013 NFL playoffs.
The Patriots went 12-4 in the regular season, earning the number two overall seed in the AFC and a bye during wildcard weekend. The Colts won the AFC South with an 11-5 record and were slated as the fourth seed. Indianapolis hosted and defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44 Saturday, setting up the divisional round contest.
The two teams have not met this season. In their last meeting, the Patriots beat the Colts 59-24, on Nov. 18, 2012.
Quick Takeaways From Last Meeting:
– Aqib Talib’s first game as a member of the Patriots. The defensive back finished the game with 7 total tackles, a pass defense and a 59-yard pick six for a touchdown.
– In his first career game versus the Patriots, Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was 22-of-50 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
– Indianapolis receiver T.Y. Hilton caught six passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns on the day, including a long pass of 43 yards. He was the most successful skill-position player for the Colts and lead the team in receptions (82) this season.
– Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, likely to be a player talked about a lot for this week’s game, was held in check for the majority of the 2012 contest. He registered just two tackles and one QB hit.
With 51 passing yards Saturday, Tom Brady will become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 6,000 yards in the postseason.
(USA TODAY Images)
Inside The Numbers:
Colts Offense: 24.4 points-per-game
Passing: 3,725 yards in 2013, 232.8 yards-per-game, 17th in the NFL
Rushing: 1,743 yards in 2013, 108.9 yards-per-game, Tied-20th in the NFL
Patriots Offense: 27.8 points-per-game
Passing: 4,087 yards in 2013, 255.4 yards-per-game, 10th in the NFL
Rushing: 2,065 yards in 2013, 129.1 yards-per-game, 9th in the NFL
Top Offensive Players To Watch:
Andrew Luck – The second-year phenom didn’t throw for record-setting numbers. but still had a very good season. He continues to show the skill that made him one of the most highly ranked prospects in the last few decades. His football IQ, throwing ability and underrated athletic ability makes him just as dangerous if teams lose pocket containment.
T.Y. Hilton – Despite his slight build (5’9, 178), Hilton is an electric playmaker. The second-year receiver had a solid season and was Indy’s top offensive weapon. He finished the season with 82 catches, 1,083 yards and five touchdowns. He has the ability to score from just about anywhere on the field.
Coby Fleener – Fleener has been a bigger part of the Colts offense after injuries to fellow tight end Dwayne Allen and receiver Reggie Wayne. While Fleener was a total non-factor in the last meeting against the Patriots, Allen had six catches for 69 yards. New England has struggled versus opposing tight ends this season. Perhaps Fleener gives them more trouble.
Donald Brown – The “blockbuster trade” for Trent Richardson flamed out — at least for the time being — and Donald Brown has taken over as the lead back for Indy. He showed why last week against the Chiefs with 55 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He has become a big part of the Colts offense.
Top Defensive Players To Watch:
Robert Mathis – The All-Pro defensive end was on a tear in 2013 and is in the discussion for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award. With 19.5 sacks this season, the 32-year-old Mathis had the most in one year of his career. He will be priority one for the Patriots offense.
Jerrell Freeman – The linebacker is the defensive signal-caller and has developed into a solid player. Freeman always seems to be around the ball and has good athletic ability for his position. Broadcasters constantly mention his name because he makes his presence felt on every play.
LaRon Landry – The hard-hitting safety has helped bring an edge to the Colts defense. Landry, whose aggressive style can help or hurt his team, plays full-tilt every play. He’s big, fast and can make some of the biggest hits you’ll see on a football field. Tom Brady could try and take advantage of his aggressive style, but knowing where Landry is on the field is a must in pre-snap reads.
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount has a favorable match-up versus the Colts Saturday night.
(USA TODAY Images)
– The Colts and Patriots were two of the best teams taking care of the football in 2013. The Colts finished plus 13, third best in the NFL; while the Patriots finished plus 9, eighth best. Turnovers won’t come easy for either side.
– Along the same lines, both teams were also the least penalized teams in the NFL. Indianapolis only had 66 accepted flags, while New England had 69 throughout the year. With NFL officials usually letting players get more physical in the post-season, penalties may not be a big factor in the contest.
– The Colts are a much improved team from last season, but they still appear to be vulnerable. Both their offensive and defensive lines are not a strong-suit. The Patriots may look to attack the Colts up front, specifically with the run game. The Colts were 26th in the league against the run, allowing an average of 125.1 rushing yards-per-game. Expect a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen early.
– Health will be a big key for the Patriots this week. New England has struggled with big injuries all season and after a week off during wildcard weekend, the team had some extra time to recover. With the Colts playing a game that put up a combined 89 points and finished with an emotional comeback, the Pats are in a much more rested state while Indy is riding high on energy from a big home win. It will be curious to see how each team starts Saturday night.
Be sure to check out my “Two Way Street” entry later in the week, as I take a look at how both teams can win or lose Saturday. For now, do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!