Patriots - Colts: Game Plans & Matchups

News, notes, injury reports, including key matchups, and game plans for both teams in this Week 13 matchup.


 The Patriots made a couple of surprise moves this week. First, they released DB Phillip Adams, which only comes as a surprise given the team's lack of depth and overall lack of performance in the secondary.

   Nate Jones, a 5-10 cornerback formerly with Miami and Dallas, was brought in as Adams' replacement. Adams had been part of several transactions this season, though it appears this one will be the last.

   Whether or not Jones sees any action this weekend remains to be seen, but with the recent addition of special teams ace Julian Edelman to the defensive game plan and the addition of Jones, it's obvious the Patriots aren't settling with what they have despite some minor improvements defensively in recent weeks.

   The team also promoted OL Nick McDonald from the practice squad to the 53-man roster to help with the offensive line depth.  McDonald is seen as a viable option at center, now that the Patriots are on their fourth option due to injury. Starter Dan Koppen is on injured reserve. Dan Connolly, his replacement has been dealing with injury issues the past two weeks, while Ryan Wendell -- Connolly's backup -- was banged up in the game against the Eagles.

To make room for McDonald, the Patriots released WR Taylor Price.  Price, a third round pick of the Patriots  in 2010,  has been unable ot crack the starting lineup at wideout.  In his place, Tiquan Underwood got the call last week.

   --WR Chad Ochocinco was back at practice Wednesday despite a hamstring injury that limited him last week. Chances are he'll play, but his role is unknown at this time.  Ochocinco is listed as PROBABLE for Sunday.
   --OL Dan Connolly missed last week's game due to a groin injury. Though it appears he'll be ready for Sunday's game, his potential absence could cause problems for New England in terms of depth along the offensive line.  He was limited in practice and is QUESTIONABLE for Sunday.
   --LB Dane Fletcher was seen on the practice field Wednesday, which is good news considering his thumb injury has kept him sidelined for several weeks, both in practice and on the field.  He is QUESTIONABLE for Sunday.
   --LB Brandon Spikes was on the field Wednesday, but not in uniform. There's no telling what this means moving forward, but perhaps he still needs time to recover from his knee injury. He did not particiapte in Friday's practice and was listed as DOUBTFUL for Sunday.
   --OL Sebastian Vollmer was not on the practice field Wednesday. He injured his foot last week and has been seen in a walking boot. He has been ruled OUT for Sunday.
   -- OL Ryan Wendell is dealing with a calf injury that limited him in practice this week. He is listed as QUESTIONABLE for Sunday.
   -- DB Devin McCourty has been trying to return from a shoulder injury suffered at the hands of teammatre Sterling Moore a couple weeks ago vs the Jets. McCourty missed the  past two games with a separated shoulder.  Despite returning to practice on a limited basis, his return is QUESTIONABLE for Sunday


The Colts have been lit up repeatedly this year, including a beatdown against New Orleans in which they allowed 62 points, so this appears to be an ideal week for fantasy football owners in possession of Tom Brady or any of his weapons on offense.

   Indianapolis ranks near the bottom of the league in every defensive category, specifically in points, where they've allowed a league-worst 29.7 per game. Expect Brady to attack early and often, and expect BenJarvus Green-Ellis to get some opportunities to punch it in from inside the red zone against the Colts' 31st-ranked rushing defense.

   On the other side of the ball, the Patriots need to be as aggressive against quarterback Dan Orlovsky as they would against any other quarterback in the league. The lack of Peyton Manning in the backfield doesn't mean the Colts are completely inept; Reggie Wayne is still a threat, Donald Brown has done a nice job filling in for Joseph Addai, and tight end Dallas Clark is always a red-zone threat despite the fact he's had a down year.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick vs. Colts QB Dan Orlovsky. Granted, Belichick doesn't have the same personnel he did during his Super Bowl years, but this crafty coach is still capable of coming up with a few schemes now and then to put opposing quarterbacks under duress. The Colts decided to bench Curtis Painter in favor of Orlovsky, who's thrown a grand total of 21 passes this season. This could wind up being a rude welcome for the 28-year-old veteran, a former fifth-round pick by the Lions in 2005.

   Colts RB Donald Brown vs. Patriots LB Jerod Mayo. Brown's ability to pick up yardage is the Colts' only chance of keeping this game competitive. Since Joseph Addai has been out due to injury, Brown has done a nice job shouldering the load. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry in last week's loss and scored a touchdown; in fact, he's scored in three of the six games he's started since Addai's injury. This a legitimate challenge for New England's front seven.

   Colts CB Jerraud Powers vs. Patriots WR Wes Welker. The Colts don't have any legitimate shutdown corners, such as Darrelle Revis of the Jets, but Powers has been their most consistent defensive back. Teams have tried putting their best cornerback on Welker in an effort to slow down the Patriots' most dangerous weapon. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. It also depends on who can guard tight end Rob Gronkowski. At the end of the day, Powers might be the best option to contain Welker. Beyond that, the Colts will have to figure out the rest.


  The Colts signed S Jermale Hines to the active roster. Hines, a fifth-round pick by St. Louis last spring, was on Indy's active roster earlier this season. He had recently been on Carolina's practice squad.

Indianapolis has also added LB Scott Lutrus from St. Louis' practice squad, signed QB Jarrett Brown to the practice squad, placed S Stevie Brown on IR and released TE Mike McNeill. Jarrett Brown was originally signed by San Francisco as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

   Also, Jacksonville claimed QB Dan LeFevour off the Indy practice squad.

   --QB Curtis Painter handled the news of his demotion from the starter's role with the same quiet demeanor as he has shown since the start of training camp in August. Painter said that he understood the decision and would work to help Dan Orlovsky as he takes over the Colts' offense.
   --OG Joe Reitz (knee) fully practiced Wednesday and might be available to play Sunday at New England. Reitz has been sidelined for nearly a month after undergoing knee surgery.
   --CB Jacob Lacey was a starter for the Colts at the beginning of the season. But he lost his job after struggling in pass coverage as he was replaced by second-year CB Kevin Thomas. Lacey, though, is in contention to win his job back after Thomas has also struggled.
   --CB Terrence Johnson appears to ready to get more playing time after suffering from a variety of injuries in recent weeks. Johnson saw some work in last Sunday's loss to Carolina and could be used more Sunday against the Patriots.

   --RB Joseph Addai (hamstring) continues to nurse a strained right hamstring. Addai tried to play last week against Carolina but soreness in the hamstring prevented him finishing the game at full strength.
   --OG Ryan Diem (knee) sat out Wednesday's workout. Diem's availability for Sunday's game at New England probably won't be decided until the end of the week.
   --C Jeff Saturday (knee) was sidelined during practice on Wednesday. Saturday is expected at this point to be able to play against the Patriots on Sunday.
   --TE Brody Eldridge (hand) was held out of Wednesday's practice. He did not play against Carolina last week after he was injured against Atlanta. Eldridge's game status remains up in the air.
   --TE Dallas Clark (fibula) did not practice on Wednesday and is not expected to be ready to play at New England on Sunday. Clark hurt his lower leg against the Falcons and has not practiced or played since.
   --DT Drake Nevis (back) was held out of Wednesday's practice session. Nevis hurt his back against Tampa Bay earlier in the season, missed several games and then played against Jacksonville the week before the team's bye. He did not play against Carolina last week.
   --WR Anthony Gonzalez (groin) did not take part in Wednesday workout. Gonzalez has battled ankle and groin issues this season. His status for Sunday's game with New England has not been decided.
   --FB Ryan Mahaffey (concussion) wasn't cleared to practice on Wednesday. Mahaffey made a strong impression on the Colts' coaching staff for his play against Carolina last week.

   It's not going to be easy playing at Gillette Stadium for the Colts this week.

   Offensively, Indianapolis has to be able to move the football on the ground in order to help its new starting quarterback. Finding a way to convert on third down, especially in the red zone, is imperative.

   The Colts' defense, meanwhile, will have its hands full trying to put enough pressure on New England's strong passing attack. Indianapolis will have to find a way to force turnovers and to force some mental mistakes. That's a very tall order.

Colts QB Dan Orlovsky vs. the Patriots pass defense -- Orlovsky will be under a lot of pressure Sunday and a lot of it has nothing to do with New England's defensive game plan. Playing in his home area, the former University of Connecticut signal caller will have to find a way to give Indianapolis some consistent play in the passing game.

   Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Colts DE Dwight Freeney -- There's a lot of respect between the two Pro Bowlers. Brady knows where Freeney is lining up all the time and will have an eye out for him all afternoon. Freeney, though, is acutely aware just how good Brady is and how quickly he can get rid of the football.

   Colts defensive secondary vs. Patriots WRs/TEs -- This is a scary matchup for Indianapolis. New England is deep and talented both at wide receiver and at tight end. The combination of WR Wes Welker and TE Rob Gronkowski can be deadly.

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