Many people associate the “Lucky number” phrase with the number 7 or the movies Lucky Number Slevin and Ocean’s Seven but did you know that the number 6 is auspicious in matters with love and relationships in Chinese culture? There was also a fragrance for men made by fashion designer Liz Claiborne called Lucky Number Six and the Patriots will be hoping for their sixth consecutive victory when they face off against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts tonight.
Out with the old and in with the new is an expression that billions across the globe know very well but in the National Football League that saying doesn’t always ring true. Tom Brady has continued to defy the odds in his career and he has done that more than ever since the defeat to Kansas City back in week 4. He and the Patriots continued their fantastic streak last week when they blew out the Denver Broncos 43-21.
The Broncos are in the eyes of many the best team in the AFC if not in football but with the New England victory last week it caused many to rethink their opinions and once again the win gave Terrific Tom some more pulling power in the Brady-Manning debate as he extended his winning record over his long term record to 11-5. After trailing a close first quarter 7-3 the Patriots battled back to completely smash Denver in the second quarter scoring 24 consecutive points.
From then on out the Patriots were in cruise control with Brady, making his 200th career start with the win giving him his 155th win (the most of any QB ever), completing 33 of his 55 attempted passes with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski hauling in 9 receptions each for a combined 194 yards. Those two were Brady’s main targets as the Patriots offense continues to up the gears week by week; Gronk was the standout player though as he decimated the Broncos defense and made one of the most spectacular catches of the season.
Now the Patriots walk in to Lucas Oil Stadium tonight to take on the epitome of “the new” type of NFL quarterback in the shape of Andrew Luck and his Indianapolis Colts with huge playoff implications. With seedings, home field advantage and a potential bye week at stake on the line it makes tonight’s game an intriguing contest as with New England at 7-2 and the Colts at 6-3 a win for either team would put them in prime position for one of the two byes on offer going in to the postseason.
With both teams coming off a bye week giving them an extra weeks preparation ahead of tonight’s crucial game you can expect it to be a fantastic affair. The Luck led Colts have been high flying this season. After starting the season 0-2 the Colts went on a five game winning streak of their own before losing a crazy game to Pittsburgh 51-34 on the road but bounced back at MetLife Stadium when they convincingly defeated the Giants 40-24.
Since Luck came in to the league the Colts are 17-4 at home including their amazing comeback against the Chiefs in the wildcard round of last seasons playoffs. Tom Brady and co are use to overcoming obstacles and Indianapolis are slight favourites ahead of tonight’s matchup in what many are anticipating to be a close one. In the two previous encounters between Brady and Luck the Patriots have blown out the Colts 43-22 in last years playoff game and 59-24 in Luck’s rookie season back in 2012.
Both of these teams have come a long way since last years playoff game and both are very improved in various departments which is what makes, in my opinion, tonight one of the games of the season especially with all that is at stake. If the Patriots get the victory tonight it’ll give them a huge boost in terms of going on to clinch the 1st seed as well as home field advantage for the postseason which is what they will want to keep away from Denver so that they can guarantee that the road to Super Bowl 49 goes through Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots and Broncos had an arms race this past offseason to improve their rosters in hope of ensuring a trip to Arizona next February but the Colts are the dark horses in the conference especially as Andrew Luck is the best young quarterback we have ever seen just because of the impact he has had on the NFL in his first 2 and a half years and the talent he has displayed. When the Colts last faced New England they had no running game with only Donald Brown, now a Charger, playing and lacked any offensive weapons due to injuries.
Since then Colts legend Reggie Wayne has returned to action, TY Hilton has broken out to improve his game and become an established wideout in the league who provides a down field threat along with tight end Dwayne Allen who provides a nice balance to Luck’s friend from Stanford Coby Fleener. Add that with Hakeem Nicks, who despite not having a good year so far is a good player, along with rookie receiver Donte Moncrief and a one to punch of Bradshaw and Richardson in the backfield and it is clear to see why this Colts offense is on pace to potentially break records in 2014.
With that being said they are facing a Patriots defense tonight which under the guidance of defensive mastermind Bill Belichick has the potential to stop any offense in the league and did stop what many feels to be the best last week when they made Peyton Manning’s Broncos look ordinary. Despite having Chandler Jones absent due to injury the brilliance of New England’s secondary has given the front seven opportunities to be creative in getting to the quarterback and stopping the run which has helped the likes of Jamie Collins, Hightower and Rob Ninkovich as we saw last week with the latter’s interception against Peyton.
With Revis and Browner playing man coverage on the outside they can stop near enough any receivers in the league. Revis’ skill set is amazing for a corner and with one of the best safeties in the league in the form of Devin McCourty just behind him it allows for not only Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia to be creative with defensive play-calling but it also benefits the strengths of the two corners as it allows them to be aggressive. This also allows Patrick Chung and, when he gets on the field, Kyle Arrington to be effective in the secondary and break up plays.
When I previewed the Patriots and Broncos game I said it would come down to who wins the battle between the Denver offense vs the Pats D. With the latter winning it ensured that New England held on to their healthy lead which gave their offense the opportunities they needed to score more points to finish their opponent off and I would say that the same applies tonight if not more with the Pats being on the road. The offense will have to deal with crowd noise etc and while we know Tom Brady is one of the best QB’s of all-time in road games you need your defense to come up big and make stops in order to take some of the pressure off of your offense as well as give it opportunities.
If this happens I expect the Patriots to have the tools to defeat the Colts. Indianapolis’ defense played lights out during their 5 game winning streak but were brought back down to earth against the Steelers after their star cornerback Vontae Davis was knocked out the game. Davis is one of the better players in the league at the corner position but depsite is talents this Colts defense usually struggles against tight ends and when you considering that the Patriots have the best tight end in the league in Rob Gronkowski, 8 touchdowns this season, you would say that the Patriots have a critical advantage which could make the difference needed in a game that is anticipated to be so close.
Offensively you can expect the Patriots to spread the ball round like they’ve done in the past 5 games to Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, Julian Edeleman and even Tim Wright who I think will be used a lot more tonight considering the Colt’s vulnerability to tight ends. In the big moments though it will be Gronk who is thrown to and if the Colts don’t come up with a game plan to try and limit him especially in the red zone then I think the Patriots will pick off any weaknesses this Indie D has and will punish them.
One thing’s for sure and that is that tonight’s matchup is a mouthwatering encounter with both QB’s at the top of their respective games. Tom Brady has rediscovered his hall of fame form following a run of 5 games which has seen him throw 18 touchdowns to just one interception with a completion percentage of over 70% meaning he is now 5th with 22 touchdowns on the year to just 3 interceptions (tied with Aaaron Rodgers for the lowest among starters). The Patriots winning run also means that Brady now has a passer rating of 103.5 which also ranks 5th. His opposite number Luck ranks 2nd in touchdowns with 26 TD’s and leads in terms of passing yardage with 3,085 yards. Despite the fact that Luck thrown more passes than other QB in the league it is a testament to his abilities that he has managed to keep his completion percentage at 63.6%
So with everything being weighed up now we just have to wait a few hours to see who wins when the best of the old guard takes on the best of the new guard in the third dual between Tom Brady’s Patriots and Andrew Luck’s Colts. A Patriots win means they will take control of the AFC following Denver’s defeat to St. Louis earlier on today which is exactly what they need as they have two tough tests against the Lions and Packers coming up. New England would be a game ahead of the Broncos and two games ahead of the Colts with the head to head over both so tonight’s game is huge but will their Luck run out when they go in to the Dome tonight?
Historically the Patriots are 9-2 in their last eleven post-bye games. Bill Belichick with an extra week of preparation is a recipe for disaster for any opposing team as he will have planned everything to the exact final details along with the fact that quarterback Tom Brady’s record when playing inside a dome is 10-2 record, 26 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions I will go with a New England victory.
Prediction: Patriots 35-27 Colts
Bold Prediction: With the Colts down by a point 28-27 Andrew Luck looks to seal off a memorable 4th quarter comeback victory but a tipped play by Jamie Collins give Brandon Browner a ‘lucky’ pick 6 to gain some personal redemption after TY Hilton embarrassed him when the Colts faced the Seahawks. The return goes all the way in to the Colts end zone to put the Pats up by 8 and seal the game for New England as the Colts have just 10 seconds remaining and no timeouts!