Patriots - Colts: Game Plans & Matchups

The Patriots have to be cautious of another lapse in execution like they had in Cleveland two weeks ago. Giving up over 380 yards in the air to Pittsburgh will seem like chump change when facing a QB as skilled as Peyton Manning. Get inside for some crucial game matchups, keys to victory and injury impact analysis.

PATRIOTS

The Patriots made one minor roster move this week, releasing LB Shawn Crable, who had made his way back onto the active roster after two injury-plagued seasons, and re-signing Pierre Woods.

Crable actually recorded four tackles and half a sack this season in limited action, but played primarily on special teams and was deemed expendable.

As far as personnel changes are concerned, expect to see DL Mike Wright's role continue to expand after another outstanding performance against Pittsburgh. Wright began his career as an undrafted rookie, but has parlayed his role as a backup into a more stable job with the team.

Wright's versatility as a tackle or end gives the Patriots more options defensively. The team's pass rush has improved steadily in recent weeks, so expect to see more of Wright as the season progresses.

GAME PLAN: The plan here is simple: Don't let Peyton Manning tear the secondary to shreds.

Manning is off to one of his best starts ever and could have a field day against this young, yet improving, secondary if the Patriots don't apply a decent pass rush. Sunday in Pittsburgh was their best effort of the season as they sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times.

In addition, they need to run the ball effectively, as they did against the Steelers, which will allow Brady enough time to work his magic. This game will basically come down to which team protects its quarterback better since both teams have passers with the ability to take the game into their own hands.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Colts QB Peyton Manning. This is not a head-to-head matchup in the true sense of the word, but both quarterbacks are capable of carrying their respective team on their shoulders. The key is who will get off to a faster start. Last week, Brady led the Patriots to 10 first-quarter points against the Steelers, which allowed New England to control the tempo. He needs to do the same this week.

Patriots LT Matt Light vs. Colts DRE Dwight Freeney. Always a classic when these two butt heads. Light has trouble against elite pass rushers, and Freeney is one of them. He is the lone player on the defensive side of the ball who can change the flow of this game. Light will need help, preferably from TE Alge Crumpler, who has proven to be a reliable blocker. Keep Brady clean, and the Patriots can win this game.

Patriots CB Devin McCourty vs. Colts WR Reggie Wayne. This might be McCourty's toughest test of the year. Wayne is one of the best in the business, and he's still Peyton Manning's favorite target. McCourty makes opposing quarterbacks pay for their mistakes, but Manning doesn't make a ton of errors, so the key here is for McCourty to stay close and be more of a cover corner than a ballhawk.

INJURY IMPACT: The question last week was whether or not QB Tom Brady's sprained foot would limit his effectiveness. Obviously it didn't, so we now know this isn't an issue unless his foot somehow worsens between now and Sunday. The lack of depth at running back remains an issue, but the Patriots continue to excel, not just survive. They racked up more than 100 rushing yards last week against an elite front seven, so anything is possible Sunday.

COLTS

The Colts waived WR Chris Brooks and have re-signed S Chip Vaughn.

Indianapolis also added rookie S Michael Greco to the team's practice squad. Greco was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Giants. He was recently waived from the Packers' practice squad.

GAME PLAN: Get in synch offensively. Continue last week's effort on defense.

The Colts need to find some consistency on offense despite the rash of injuries that have hit the unit. Indianapolis' running game hasn't been spectacular but it has been able to provide a little bit better balance in recent weeks.

Defensively, the Colts have to keep the New England offense in check. And that won't be easy. Getting pressure on the quarterback and keeping him on the move is crucial.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Colts QB Peyton Manning vs. Patriots CB Devin McCourty. Manning likes to test rookie cornerbacks early, so expect McCourty to get quite a workout in the early stages of the game.

Colts DE Dwight Freeney vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady. Brady isn't the typical athletic NFL quarterback. But he is smart and knows how to keep plays alive by moving around in the pocket.

Colts LT Charlie Johnson vs. Patriots RDE Mike Wright. Wright has a team-leading 5.5 sacks this season for New England. Johnson has played well this season despite an early-season foot injury.

INJURY IMPACT: RB Joseph Addai (neck) has been nursing a sore shoulder and neck for the past three weeks.

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This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange

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