AFC Divisional Playoff game 1 – Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

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59 – 24 to the Patriots was the score the last time these 2 teams met in Foxboro, that was on the 18th of November 2012 and both teams have changed a lot since then, but there could still be a lot of points on this game.  One of the main changes to the Colts is the addition of veteran wide receiver and former Patriot (who he twice won the Super Bowl with in 2004 & 2005) Deion Branch.  Branch was released by the Patriots in November of 2012 but re-signed as injury cover in December of the same year; he joined the Colts just 5 days ago so his role in this game could be very limited.  The Patriots changes are largely caused by injuries (they have 12 injury concerns amongst their active roster and a further 11 of the Injured Reserve list), although they did lose Wes Welker at the end of last season as free agent and they quickly released Tight End Aaron Hernandez when he was arrested on suspicion of murder in June of 2013.

Statistics wise the Patriots have the 18th best pass defence in the league allowing on average 239 pass yards per game, they also have the 30th best rushing defence in the league, the worst in the playoffs.  Strangely though both of these areas match up quite well against the Colts offence that was ranked 13th in the league as a passing offence and 26th in the league as a rushing offence.

On the other side of the ball the Patriots have excelled particularly given the injury problems they have suffered, they have been playing with a patched up line Offensive line for much of the season and have to move players o different positions during games to cover for their losses.  Wide Receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins who has averaged 15 yards per catch this season and made 4 touchdown receptions will miss this game and the man the Patriots signed to replace Wes Welker Danny Amendola is considered to be “probable” having only been able to take limited part in several games this season.  The Colts pass defence has been their strong suit this season and is ranked 13th on the league, their run defence however has been an issue and is ranked 26th allowing over 125 yards per game. 

Where both teams have excelled this season is in the take away category, with 13 and 9 respectively they have the most of any AFC team left in the playoffs.  The real story of this game is not one of two peerless teams who have destroyed every team they have faced on their way to a playoff run this year but rather of two teams who have scrapped their way and shown the character required to win games that they really should have lost.  The Colts comeback last week against a Chiefs side who just couldn’t catch a break is the sort of display that only very special teams can pull off.  It’s very difficult to write off a Patriots side with the greatest coach of his generation in Bill Bellichick and a hall of fame bound Quarterback in Tom Brady but with Brady himself being one of the Patriots players who is suffering an injury and his counterpart Andrew Luck looking like he’s ready to join the likes of Brady and former Colt Peyton Manning as an elite Quarterback I think the Colts should continue to ride the wave of momentum that carried them through the final 28 minutes and 39 seconds of their Wildcard marvel.

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