Patriots-Colts Week 15 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?
The Patriots head out on the road for a primetime Saturday night matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, the team’s second primetime game in a row. This one has huge playoff implications for both teams as we enter the final stretch of the regular season.
After last week’s win in Buffalo and the Bills’ subsequent loss in Tampa Bay, the Patriots have a two-game lead in the AFC East and could retake the top seed in the AFC with a win after the Chiefs beat the Chargers in OT to improve to 10-4.
The Patriots (9-4) were on a bye last week but defeated the Bills 14-10 the week before, their seventh win in a row as the running game amassed 222 yards.
The Colts (7-6) are also coming off of a bye week but on Dec. 5 they beat Houston Texans 31-0, where Jonathan Taylor ran for 143 yards and 2 TDs.
This week’s game will be broadcast by The NFL Network. Kevin Burkhardt will handle play-by-play duties with Greg Olsen as the color analyst. Pam Oliver and Kristina Pink will work from the sidelines. The game will be broadcast on the radio by 98.5 The Sports Hub. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2021 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out. So, here is our 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 was the entire offense two weeks ago in Buffalo as they leaned on Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson to roll up 222 yards on the Bills. While their game plan will be to run the ball effectively, the weather conditions in the dome at Indy will give them a better opportunity to throw the ball, and they’ll need to.
But in this matchup, the Patriots will look to the interior offensive line to get a push on the Colts’ DeForrest Buckner and Grover Stewart inside to open up the running lanes. Kwity Paye and Al-Quadin Muhammad set the edges. The Colts do a very good job of stopping the run by the defensive linemen slowing the run at the point of attack and allowing the smaller but speedy linebackers to clean up.
Look for the Patriots to try to run inside between the guard and tackle and free up Stevenson and Bolden. Harris is questionable for this one and may not be ready to go this week. Look for the team to test the right side behind Trent Brown taking on Muhammad. Keep an eye on the explosive Darius Leonard at the second level. How well they do or don’t block him will have a big factor in this matchup. Protecting the ball is paramount this week, as Indy has 14 forced fumble recoveries.
Patriots WRs vs Colts Secondary – Razor’s Edge Indianapolis
The Patriots’ passing game got the week off in Buffalo because of the weather, so MLB Bobby Okereke’s statement that the Colts defense’s goal was to stop the run to “see what Jones can do” isn’t really big news. That’s the goal of every team they play since the Patriots’ identity is to be a power-running team.
Indy’s defense is #12 against the pass, allowing just 230 yards per game. And although they don’t have a “dominant pass rusher” they’ve amassed 29 sacks, with Buckner and Muhammad leading the way with 5.5 and 5 sacks each. They are also a ball-hawking unit with 15 interceptions.
Play-action and pass protection is the key for the Patriots’ offense to finding some holes to exploit in the secondary. Look for them to mix it up a lot more this week (obviously). One area to watch will be the middle of the field with the tight ends as well as the running backs. The Colts are allowing 67.2 yards per game to tight ends, so Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith could be a big part of the game plan this week
Next up is the Indianapolis offense:
Colts RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Indianapolis
The Patriots’ run defense has a big, big task in front of them this week, as the Colts have the #2 rushing offense in the league behind Jonathan Taylor and average a whopping 5.1 yards per carry. They run behind Quentin Nelson and Ryan Kelly and like New England are a power-running team that punishes opponents, opens up play-action, and controls the tempo and the clock.
The Patriots front seven including Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux upfront and Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker will have to bring their A-games this week.
Taylor averages 5.6 yards per carry and has 16 rushing touchdowns, so being physical up front and stopping him from getting to the second level is paramount.
Colts WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ secondary is allowing just 195.5 yards per game and has 19 interceptions, which has been key to keeping opponents out of the end zone. J.C. Jackson should be tied up with Michael Pittman who is having a very good season (67 catches, 882 yards, and 5 TDs), this should be a great match-up to watch. The pass rush with Matthew Judon (12.5 sacks) will be a key to forcing Carson Wentz to get rid of the ball quickly and forcing some mistakes.
Wentz has cleaned up his game by reuniting with HC Frank Reich with 22 TDs and just 5 INTs. But he still has a streaky body of work that includes times where he makes poor decisions. With Pittman getting the bulk of the production, the X-Factor this week could be T.Y. Hilton, who has returned after missing some time. Play action passes targeting TEs Jack Doyle and Mo Allie-Cox as well as the backs out of the backfield isolating the linebackers in coverage.
The key here is getting Wentz to hold the ball too long and force him into getting hit and turning the ball over. Wentz has been hit 60 times, 2nd most in the league behind Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. When Wentz doesn’t turn the ball over, the Colts are 6-1, when he does they are 1-5.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ Nick Folk continues a stellar season and is 33-36 on field goals. The coverage units have been excellent. Punt returner Gunner Olszewski is averaging 12.5 yards per punt return. Jake Bailey is finally healthy and rounding into form.
The Colts replaced the injured Rodrigo Blankenship with Michael Badgley and he’s been spot on making all 32 PATs and 11-12 FGs. Rigoberto Sanchez is averaging 45.2 yards on his punts with 20 inside the 20-yard line. Nyheim Hynes and Isaiah Rodgers return punts and kickoffs respectively. The Colts’ coverage units have been solid.
Next up, who wins and why…
This week’s game will be a contest of strength versus strength. Both teams want to run the ball and stop the run. If that evens out then the team that can throw the ball more effectively and create some turnovers will have a big advantage.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Be Physical and Use the Running Game To Open Up Passing Lanes – The Patriots are a power running team first and foremost, and they use that to open up play action. The Colts are a good run defense team but this one is a match-up that they have to win on Saturday night.
Look for the Patriots to run out of 21 personnel to work the running game and then use play-action to isolate the linebackers in coverage against the tight ends and attack the middle of the field. Tampa used a similar approach in their meeting.
Slow the Run and Put Pressure on Wentz – The Patriots’ front seven may go with a big nickel with Adrian Phillips/ Kyle Dugger as an extra linebacker to help trying to slow Taylor and provide better coverage when the Colts go play-action. That could be playing with fire against the Colts’ excellent OL so, we’ll have to see.
This week controlling the gaps and setting the edge are not only keys but imperative. If Taylor starts finding cut-back lanes, it could be a long night for the defense.
3rd Down Key – The Patriots need to convert on 3rd downs while getting off the field and forcing the Colts to punt thereby gaining field position. The Patriots have been very conservative in their play-calling on 3rd downs in recent weeks. This week will no doubt force them to be more aggressive.
The Colts and Patriots have been bitter rivals through the years since Bill Belichick has taken over the reins, although the teams haven’t played each other in the past three years. However, we expect a close, down to the wire game. Look for the Patriots defense to get a late stop or turnover. Patriots 27-23
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Streamyard as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Carson Wentz Darius Leonard DeForest Buckner Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Frank Reich Indianapolis Colts Jonathan Taylor Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones Michael Pittman New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers T.Y. Hilton