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Indianapolis Colts vs New England Patriots Divisional Round Preview

The New England Patriots will host the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday Night in the AFC Divisional Round. This will be the fourth time these two teams have met in the postseason. The Patriots defeated the Colts in the 2003 AFC Championship game, 24-14, at Gillette Stadium.  The Patriots would win again in their second postseason matchup in the 2004 AFC Divisional Round 20-3. The Colts won the last time these teams played in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, 38-34.

The Colts are coming off of an incredible 45-44 comeback win against Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card Round. After struggling in the first half, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns.  Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton’s play was also huge in the comeback as he had 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick will devise a scheme to slow down the Luck-Hilton connection.

The responsibility of slowing down Hilton will fall at the feet of Patriots cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Logan Ryan. Cornerback tandem combined for nine interceptions during the 2013 season. The Patriots secondary isn’t one of the team’s big worries heading into this game.

The biggest concern for the Patriots is their injury ridden linebacker core. The Patriots, who were already without Jerod Mayo, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this season will also be without linebacker Brandon Spikes.  Spikes, which is considered to be one of the Patriots best run-stopper was also placed on IR this week.  Starting in Spikes’ place will be Dane Fletcher, who has 81 career tackles.

The Colts aren’t without injuries themselves. Starting cornerback Greg Toler (groin) and defensive end Fili Moala (knee) were placed on injured reserve this week. Safety LaRon Landry, who suffered a concussion during last week’s game against Kansas City.  Landry did practice on Wednesday, but it is unknown if he has passed the two NFL-mandated test that will allow him to play Saturday night.

Expect the Colts to try to taking advantage of the Patriots’ injuries by running the ball more and taking less pressure away from Andrew Luck. Despite the fact that running back Donald Brown had just 55 yards against the Chiefs last week, he did average five yards per carry.

Another key for the Colts will be getting pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Linebacker Robert Mathis led the NFL in sacks this season with 19 ½. Brady was sacked 40 times in 2013, which is the most since his first full season in 2001.

The Patriots are 8-0 at home this season, but have lost their last two times they’ve hosted a home playoff game as after an undefeated season at home at Gillette Stadium.

Can the Colts ride their momentum against a Patriot team that has been annihilated by injuries? Or can the Patriots win another home playoff game in January?

Despite the Patriots key injuries on defense, I’m going to take New England  to win 35-31. I expect running back LaGarrette Blount to have a big game against the 26th ranked rushing defense of the Colts.

You can watch the game Saturday at 8:15 p.m. eastern on CBS.

photo by: jdn

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