AFC Championship game Indianapolis Colts @ New England

Like the Seahawks and the Packers these 2 teams have already met this season and the Patriots have very happy memories of a 42-20 points victory, that was under the roof of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis back in mid-November though so this week might not be quite the same sort of points-fest. Again like the Packers and the Seahawks it’s difficult to see how the road team can make any case for an upset in this game either, the only game the Patriots lost in Massachusetts this season was in week 17 when they rested as many starters as they could and the Colts didn’t beat a playoff team away all season in 3 attempts.
The weather could play an important role in the way this game is played as both teams do favour a passing offence, but as was already alluded to that’s a lot easy inside the Colts home stadium and with rain and temperatures below freezing forecast in Foxboro this evening passing and catching will not be easy. If the game comes down who can run the ball best then the Patriots should have an advantage purely and simply because they have 5 Running Back’s who have rushed for touchdowns this season while the Colts have used just 3. Of those 3 1 is now on IR and another, the ever disappointing Trent Richardson missed a practice session this week and has been left back in Indiana by the Colts hierarchy. This is the first full season that the Colts 1 remaining back Dan “Boom” Herron has been involved in since he was drafted and he’s averaged an impressive 4.5 rushing yards per carry (& 8.2 yards per catch) in the regular season but he also lost 2 fumbles and has also fumbled twice in the playoffs.
Defensively both teams have generated particularly good pass rush this season with 41 and 40 sacks respectively but with their 16 interceptions helping them to a takeaway differential of +12 they are some way ahead of the Colts who have particular problems with fumbles and ended the regular season with a turnover differential of -5 which left them in the bottom 10 in the NFL.
Andrew Luck has been fantastic in his first 3 seasons (he’s won 3 playoff games) as a professional football player but for the second consecutive season Foxboro and the Patriots look to be 1 hurdle too far for a young Quarterback with an equally young Running Back (they’re both just 25) to assist him. Last season the Patriots beat the Colts 43-22 in the playoffs and Luck threw 4 interceptions along with his 2 touchdown passes, the Patriots ran for 234 yards and scored 6 touchdowns on the ground along the way. This game should not be the same 1 sided affair and with a fully fit Rob Gronkowski (the comeback player of the year you know, well according to the NFL Writers) for Tom Brady to throw to there’s very little chance they will only be scoring rushing touchdowns this year. Gronkowski’s importance to the offence is difficult to understate, not only is he a huge physical presence who is hard to stop but his mere appearance affords Wide Receiver’s Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and occasionally Brandon LaFell acres of space to run into and makes Tom Brady’s life a whole lot easier.

AFC Wildcard Game 2 Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts

Theoretically this a matchup of a team who pride themselves on having a strong defence; the Bengals, against a team who have one of the best passing attacks in the NFL with the Colts’ Andrew Luck leading the NFL in touchdown passes this season, breaking Peyton Manning’s franchise records for pass yards in one season and in doing so breaking the Colts record for consecutive games with 300 or more yards passing. However when the teams met at Lucas Oil Stadium in week 7 the Bengals defence was treated with serious contempt as the Colts rushed for 171 yards on their way to a comprehensive 27-0 victory!
It’s being billed as a clash of 2 Pro Bowl Quarterbacks but apart from sharing a Christian name there’s nothing really comparable about them, mainly due to the ways both teams go about their business. Luck and the Colts offence lead the NFL in pass yards this season while Dalton’s Bengals were 21st in that category a full 1473 yards behind. Dalton was also 21 touchdown passes Luck, this is largely due to the Bengals reliance on their run game, they were ranked 6th in the NFL with an average of 134.2 yards per game on the ground and only Seattle scored more rushing touchdowns with rookie Jeremy Hill’s total of 9 only being bettered by Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray. The one similarity both Luck and Dalton both have is neither of them have performed to their potential during the postseason, in the 6 games they’ve appeared in between them they have combined for 1,780 yards, 7 touchdowns and a mesmerising 14 interceptions! In Luck’s favour he has actually won 1 playoff game and he’s responsible for 6 of those touchdowns and 1,062 of the 1,780 yards.
This season the Bengals pass defence was ranked 20th in the league after allowing 243 yards per game but the 18 touchdowns they allowed through the air was the 3rd fewest in the NFL, they did allow the 4th most rushing touchdowns though so the reason not many touchdown passes were scored on them may have been because teams didn’t feel the need to pass in the redzone. The Colts had the 12th best pass defence in the NFL this season and the 18th best rushing defence but their redzone defence as hardly been earth shattering just 1 playoff team (the one with the losing, the Panthers) have conceded more points than the 369 points they have allowed.
Dalton and the Bengals have racked up an impressive 5 road wins this season but the Colts haven’t lost on their home field since week 2 and while neither quarterback is exactly reliable when it comes to the playoffs Luck and the Colts have their astonishing 45-44 win in last year’s Wildcard game when they scored 35 points in the 2nd half to inspire them and propel them toward a Divisional Championship game in Foxboro next weekend.