Six Points: Patriots vs. Colts
In arguably the most anticipated matchup of the regular season, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots travel to Indianapolis for a Week 6 matchup against the Colts.
The two teams, whose meeting in last January's AFC title game sparked the Deflategate controversy, enter the game in different positions.
New England (5-0) is once again playing at a championship level, with Brady having an MVP-type season.
Indianapolis (3-2) hasn't looked nearly as dominant, though the team has recovered from an 0-2 start to reclaim the top spot in the AFC South. The Colts have been without star quarterback Andrew Luck the last two weeks due to a shoulder injury, but hope to have him back in the lineup Sunday.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Patriots and the Colts.
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1. Continue to air it out
Tom Brady is on pace to throw for more than 5,500 yards this season, which would be an NFL record. He's had a great deal of success airing it out and throwing the ball frequently, and there's no reason for the Patriots to buck the trend against the Colts. Indianapolis allows the fifth-most yards per game through the air, which means Brady should have no trouble topping 300 yards. The Patriots are 4-0 for a reason, and it's largely due to Brady's incredible numbers.
2. Don't allow Andrew Luck to get comfortable in the pocket
The Colts have struggled in pass protection and haven't allowed Luck or Hasselbeck to get comfortable in the pocket all season. The Patriots need to continue to put pressure on the Colts' offensive line with blitzes. If the Patriots can prevent the Colts from taking shots downfield by getting to the quarterback, they'll have success on defense.
3. Keep LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis fresh
Lewis has been on the field for most of the snaps this season, but Blount has been very effective in his limited opportunities. He's rushed for 152 yards on just 31 carries the past two games and has found the end zone three times. Lewis is the more dynamic guy out of the backfield, but Blount has the ability to wear down a defense and keep Lewis fresh throughout the game.
1. Stop the run
The Colts' inability to stop New England's rushing attack has been well chronicled, with Indianapolis giving up 219 yards per game over the last three meetings. Even without defensive tackle Arthur Jones, who is out for the season, the Indianapolis run defense has been better this year, limiting opponents to an average of 3.84 yards per carry. Head coach Chuck Pagano stressed this week the team is different up front from a year ago, and he's right, as a number of new players have been added to the mix, including Kendall Langford and rookie David Parry. We'll see if the new group generates different results as the team tries to slow down Blunt and Lewis.
2. Get the other receivers involved
The Patriots were able to neutralize Colts' Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in two meetings last year, limiting him to four receptions for 60 yards. With that in mind, Indianapolis upgraded at the position, adding veteran Andre Johnson and rookie Philip Dorsett. The Colts will need Johnson and Dorsett, along with Donte Moncrief to make plays for Luck in the event Hilton is once the focal point of the New England defense.
3. Lean on Gore
High-stakes games like these are precisely why Indianapolis signed Frank Gore in free agency. The veteran running back is coming off a 98-yard performance last week, proving he's still plenty productive. The Colts need to make sure he's involved early. An effective game from Gore will help open things up in the passing game.