The New England Patriots host a Thursday Night Football game for the first time this season against the Indianapolis Colts. It is an important game for both teams as the Patriots are trying to stay on the winning track after dropping two in a row. The Colts are trying to get back on the winning track after dropping two close games to the Eagles and Texans.
This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 4 at 8:20 PM ET and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
The Patriots (2-2) defeated the Miami Dolphins 38-7 to even their record at .500. The Patriots dominated on both sides of the ball, holding Ryan Tannehill to just 100 yards passing. Sony Michel had 112 yards rushing, Tom Brady threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns. James White had a touchdown rushing and receiving.
The Colts (1-3) dropped a heart-breaking 37-34 overtime loss to the Houston Texans. Andrew Luck threw for 464 yards and 4 TDs, completing 40 of 62 passes. Luck completed passes to eight different receivers and the Colts had five receivers with 50 yards or more.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.
The Patriots and the Colts are playing for the 81st time in a series dominated by the Patriots. New England holds a 51-29 overall lead in the all-time series lead including a 4-1 advantage in the postseason. At home, the Patriots hold an all-time 29-12 lead. They have won the last seven matchups and are 5-0 against Andrew Luck including two playoff victories.
Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Colts Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots running game showed some definite signs of life last week with the team racking up 175 yards against the Dolphins. Sony Michel led the way with 112 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. James White added 44 more including a 22-yard touchdown run. The coaches have made a concerted effort to remain balanced this year and this game with a short prep week, look for more of the same.
The Colts aren’t the team that the Patriots routinely gashed left and right a few years ago. They’re bigger and built much better to stop the run than those sieve-like teams. They have a good size front four with former Patriot Jabaal Sheard at one end and big Margus Hunt at the other with Al Woods and Denico Autry inside.
Look for the Patriots to continue to their balanced attack and keep mixing things up against the Colts defense. The defense played nearly a 5-quarter game on Sunday and was on the field for 83 snaps. That may begin to take a toll on the road team in the fourth quarter. Especially if the Patriots can get ahead early and keep the pressure on them.
Patriots WRs vs Colts Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game looked much better with the addition of Josh Gordon last week. This week they add Julian Edelman back into the mix. That is a good sign for New England. With Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan more complementary type of receivers, they will be placed in a much better position to succeed. With James White and Michel out of the backfield and Cordarelle Patterson as a small package type of player, all of a sudden, Brady has plenty of weapons to work with. The only question is whether Rob Gronkowski’s ankle will allow him to play.
The Colts are allowing about 268 yards per game thru the air. If Gronkowski is able to go this week, it will put them in a very difficult position to win many matchups. However, they did get seven sacks against Houston last week, two of which came from Autry inside. They’ll need that kind of push this week.
Look for Brady to test the Colts corners (Kenny Moore and Nate Hairston) with Gordon and Edelman. White is the X-Factor in the offense, as with his full complement of receivers this week, Brady may be able to find mismatches for his talented running back. Their linebackers are young and inexperienced but have been playing really well. If Gronkowski is available to play (I’d lean toward no right now), then his matchup will be the key one to watch.
Next up the Indianapolis offense:
Indy RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Colts haven’t replaced Frank Gore yet although two rookies (Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines) look to eventually have the team in good shape. The Colts are having trouble running the football this year, averaging just 72 yards per game.
The Patriots had been getting gashed via the run until last week’s game against the Dolphins. They did a much better job against Miami holding them to just 56 yards on the ground. However, in the pivotal first half, Miami had six carries for seven yards. Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton were much better last week as was the play of the linebackers.
Look for Luck to pass to run. They’d love to get their backs going and get in favorable positions in terms of downs and yardage, but the Patriots should be able to slow them down enough to force Luck and the Colts into having to throw the ball. Elandon Roberts, who had a big game on Sunday left early with an injury, we’ll see what his availability is this week.
Colts WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Indy passing game has been limited thus far to the no-huddle, up-tempo short yardage game as they’ve wanted to ease Luck back into things and not do too much right away. That has led some to believe that his arm strength is gone. While it probably isn’t where it was a few years ago, it will grow stronger as the season wears on.
Luck’s most dangerous weapon, T.Y. Hilton is injured with a hamstring problem right now and may not play this week. That would really limit the stretching of the field that the Colts enjoy with him. He’ll lean heavily on Hines, out of the backfield who is the team’s leading receiver with 22 catches and Ryan Grant along tight end Eric Ebron. Jack Doyle is also injured with a bad hip.
The Patriots played much better coverage last week, getting aggressive and physical with the wide receivers off the line. The cornerbacks easily had their best game of the year and if the Colts are minus their best WR it is a plus for NE. Look for the Patriots to get more aggressive and try to put more pressure on Luck this week to generate some extra pass rush. Newcomer John Simon may see some extra work against his former team this week.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push
The Patriots and Colts Special Teams both have very reliable kickers and punters. Adam Vinatieri was called the best kicker in NFL history by Bill Belichick this week, and unlike other times where he pumps the opponent’s tires, he isn’t stretching much there. The ageless Vinatieri is still money on FGs and EPs. The Colts have an excellent punter in Rigoberto Sanchez. The Patriots tandem of Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski are an excellent tandem of their own. Except for the year Gostkowski was injured, the Patriots have had only two kickers (Vinatieri or Gostkowski) for the past 23 years.
Both teams have solid coverage units. The Colts return game is stuck in neutral while the Patriots return men Cordarrelle Patterson and Cyrus Jones are just starting to show some life.
Next up, who wins and why…
Thursday Night Games are always difficult to get a good feel for. With a very short week to prepare, you never know what you’re going to get. The Patriots have always traditionally prepared well for the short-week Thursday night contests.
We’re going to stick with what has been working and that is the Patriots will continue their winning streak against the Colts, especially at home until they show that they can win one here.
You have to factor in the Colts defense played 83 snaps on Sunday afternoon and they could still have some residual effect from that overtime contest. Factor in they may be missing their best wide receiver in Hilton and it adds to balance sheet for New England.
Brady will have Julian Edelman back this week for the first real game since the Super Bowl against Atlanta, so expect that they’ll try to get him involved early, but then limit his usage until he gets his game legs under him. I’d look for Indy to line up Hairston their bigger corner on Gordon which should be a good matchup to watch.
The Patriots and Brady have had Luck and the Colts number at home for some time now. Look for that to continue this week to kick off Week 5. Patriots 34-17