“The Rivalry is Back!” TNF
The New England Patriots played a much better game than we’ve seen all season last week at home against Miami. The Pats dominated the Dolphins at the line of scrimmage on both the offensive and defensive sides, cruising to a 38-7 blowout.
The defense seemed to play much more physical and they stuffed the running game as well as covered in the secondary much better than they have in quite some time. The offense seemed to get untracked with the running game pounding the Dolphins for 175 yards while the passing game seemed to finally get untracked.
The Colts enter the game 1-3 but could easily be 3-1. They lost an overtime game last week against division rival Houston when head coach Frank Reich went for a 4th and 6 at midfield with time running out in the OT session and they were stopped.
Indy is really banged up right now with several players out for tonight’s game including leading receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle and starting corner Kenny Moore. The team played over 80 snaps on each side of the ball on Sunday and with the travel factored in, fatigue may become a factor in the second half.
The Patriots have a chance to put two wins together and move over the .500 mark and start building some momentum. They’d love to get a win and then have 10 days to prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs.
So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:
The Patriots got back Edelman from his four-game suspension on Monday and immediately the other players were talking about the energy that he brings to the field, the locker room and how it has a carry-over effect to the other players.
But the reality is, despite Edelman appearing like his normal self all through training camp, he is coming off of ACL surgery where he missed all of the 2017 season. By Edelman’s own admission, he didn’t have his legs under him yet this summer, perhaps this month will have helped him get the rust out and have him ready to go.
It will be interesting to see how the coaches and Brady use him tonight. I’d expect that they will go to him very early to get the jitters over with but limit his snaps a bit until he gets some game action under his belt.
But with having him back and the addition of Josh Gordon last week, it has a snowball effect on the other Patriots receivers. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are more complementary WRs than a 1-2 combination, so now with Edelman and Gordon, drawing the top corners of the opposition, they’ll draw lesser competition and their production should increase.
The Patriots very versatile and very important cog in the defense will be looked to a great deal tonight. Chung is so versatile and can do so many things, he often is overlooked at how valuable his presence is. He can play in the box in run support and is a very sure tackler. He can cover tight ends and is usually very solid in doing so. And at times he can even cover in the slot.
Tonight with Andrew Luck missing a couple of his key weapons, look for him to try to get Eric Ebron heavily involved in the offense. Chung will no doubt see a lot of action against Ebron and it should be an intriguing matchup to watch.
It was no coincidence that the turnaround for the defense had something to do with the return of Chung and Trey Flowers last week after they missed the Detroit game. The fact that he’s a captain this year speaks volumes of how not only the coaches but his teammates view him. He’s always a big part of the defensive game plan but should be an even bigger piece this week.
The Patriots pass-catching running back had a big game on Sunday against the Dolphins. This was probably not a coincidence after Tom Brady had said the week before that they needed to get him more involved in the offense. White had a 22-yard touchdown and a highlight reel touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
White is so versatile in the Patriots offense, he can run, pass block and is a terrific receiver out of the backfield. Brady will often put him in motion to get pre-snap reads of the defense and then try to create a mismatch with a linebacker.
With a Colts pass rush that is getting a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, White may be an answer for some of that tonight. One way of keeping defenses from constantly pinning their ears back is to use the screen game and White is outstanding in that aspect. He should see a lot of touches in the game tonight.
Last week, it seemed like the Patriots passing game was finally starting to click. Despite that, QB Tom Brady made some uncharacteristic mistakes and threw a couple of interceptions. Brady holds himself to a ridiculously high standard and will be looking to cut down on those this week against the Colts.
Indianapolis has been outstanding at rushing the passer this season and has 17 sacks in just four games this season. So Brady will have to be spot on and be ready to get the ball out quickly this week.
After struggling badly thru the first three games of the season in the air, the addition of Josh Gordon seemed to help loosen up the coverage for the other WRs. Now Brady gets back not only his most productive receiver but his slot guy, an area that they’ve really struggled with in his absence. And also the player that Brady is closest to on the team. Edelman’s return should do wonders for Brady’s confidence.
Kyle Van Noy:
The Patriots linebacker had a very solid game on Sunday playing a part in keeping the dangerous Kenyan Drake from becoming a key part of the opposing offense. Van Noy is another one of the more unsung Patriots defensive members and he’s versatile and can do a lot in stopping the run, rushing the passer and covering backs out of the backfield.
The Patriots lost Ja’Whaun Bentley in Detroit and their depth took another hit when Elandon Roberts was banged up late in the game on Sunday. Which means that more will be expected of Van Noy and Hightower. The Colts are also missing some key members of their offense this week, so they may lean heavily on running back Nyheim Hines.
Hines leads all Indy receivers with 22 catches and is tied for second on the team with two TD receptions. He will be a key player to watch on the Indy side, therefore, stopping him and Ebron become very important. The Colts are converting third downs this season at a ridiculous 51.6 percent thru the quarter mark of the season. Part of the reason is the play of Hines, Van Noy may see a lot of action covering him tonight.