2011 NFL Week Thirteen Preview: Indianapolis Colts At New England Patriots

For some reason, this year's Colts-Patriots game just doesn't quite have the same sizzle as in year's past.

We've become so accustomed to both teams combining for very few losses coming into the game, a combined 23 from 2003-10, that seeing one team with nearly half that in one year just doesn't seem to be real. That's really amazing to think about...an average of 3 combined losses, and only one of those games was played before Week 9 for eight straight years. But in 2011, we get a 21-point spread. Boy were we spoiled.

The Patriots are an AFC-East leading 8-3, and have won their last 3 games averaging over 36 points in those three games. They struggled a bit in the middle of the season, but this is the same Patriots team we've grown to know over the past decade, one in which the Colts played them in some of the best games in the NFL.

Each of the past five matchups have been decided by four points or less, and the Colts have won five of the past seven meetings between the two rivals. Overall the Colts are 29-45 against the Patriots, as they used to play twice a year as division rivals.

Dan Orlovsky will be making his first NFL start since 2008, after being named the starter for the Colts Tuesday by Head Coach Jim Caldwell. He takes over for a clearly overmatched Curtis Painter, and will try and keep the Colts from achieving the same thing his Lions did in '08: the dreaded 0-16 record. Will he be the difference in getting the Colts their first win of the season?

Maybe. But it certainly won't be this week...

Adjusted Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Patriots:

Statistic Colts Patriots
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 60.9% 29 73.8% 31 78.3% 2 72.2% 28
ANPY/A 4.005 30 7.507 32 8.028 2 5.820 18
Turnovers 2.17 26 1.14 30 1.55 13 1.80 15
Yds/Drive 22.71 30 31.94 25 38.17 2 35.47 32
ToP/Drive 2:08.0 32 3:04.0 31 2:44.0 15 2:50.0 24
Yds/Play 4.710 24 5.501 25 6.103 2 5.763 29
First Downs/Drive 1.23 32 1.87 26 2.26 1 1.98 32
3rd/4th Down 31.9% 30 47.6% 32 46.5% 5 41.9% 22
Avg Start Pos 26.1 32 33.3 29 30.6 18 29.0 5
3 and Outs 5.13 30 3.25 26 2.65 4 3.18 27
RZ Eff 46.9% 30 79.5% 30 73.9% 5 61.1% 11
Plays/Drive 4.893 32 5.753 26 6.216 3 6.066 31
Penalty Yds / Play 0.617 2 0.738 25 0.715 13 0.960 6
RB Success 45.0% 18 50.1% 29 51.3% 6 49.4% 26
Yds/Carry 4.31 12 4.09 15 3.94 22 4.16 19
Net Punts Yds/Game 38.54 14 40.78 30 38.86 11 36.20 5
Overall 32 32 3 26

Keys to the game:

  • While I don't think we'll see the onslaught we saw when the Saints rolled up 62 points, the Patriots could easily hit the mid-40s without breaking a sweat. The Patriots are a top 3 offense, and this Colts defense hasn't shown it can stop anyone this year, let alone one of the best the NFL has to offer.
  • What will it take for the unthinkable to happen? Turnovers, and lots of them, as they are the ultimate equalizer. The Patriots aren't great at taking care of the ball this year, so there is a small chance it could happen. I'm thinking at least 4 to make a difference.
  • The other key, and it's always been the key to beating the Patriots, is getting pressure on Tom Brady. New Defensive Coordinator Mike Murphy might as well throw caution to the wind and try everything in the book to get to the QB. If we see the Colts only rushing 3 or 4, Brady will carve them up. It makes little difference if they score on big plays, as they'll do it anyway, just slower, if they protect Brady.
  • There's another way for the Colts to stay in the game, and that is to keep up score for score with them. I'll be honest, I don't know which one has a better chance of happening between this and a bunch of Patriot turnovers. Orlovsky to the rescue?
  • The Patriots Defense is just slightly better than the Panthers, and they are just as bad at the drive related stats. If the Colts can string together a couple of first downs, which is certainly possible against this defense, we may see them hang around. If the Colts are forced off the field quickly, well, you know what'll happen.
  • I'll also advocate running the ball, and running in non-traditional situations. The Colts last week ran the ball, but always in obvious situations. The Patriots aren't great against the run, so the Colts must take advantage of this. We'll see if the suddenly resurgent Donald Brown can continue running well against a team he should run well against.
  • I'm expecting Pat McAfee to make at least 3 tackles, whether it be on punts or kickoffs. I fear Julian Edelman getting loose and running everywhere.

Do the Colts have a chance to win on Sunday? I guess anything's possible, but my Predictor puts it at about 11%, so it's very unlikely. I think the Colts actually play better than everyone else thinks, and hang around (loosely used), and lose by about what Vegas thinks. I think we'll see some things by the Defense we haven't seen yet this year, and even if they don't work, at least it isn't the same thing that's led to 11 straight losses to start the season.

Let's hope next year's Patriots game is much like the last eight years.

Patriots 41, Colts 20

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