Don't miss 5 reasons why the Pats will win
1. The Colts need the game more.
While both teams need to win this game, Indianapolis clearly needs it more. If the season were to end today the Colts would not make the playoffs. The Colts have not had four losses at this stage in the season for some time. In fact the Colts have a 3-4 record putting them under .500. They are four games out of first place, (actually four and a half games since they lost to the Tennessee Titans last Monday night) while the Tom Brady-less Patriots are tied with Buffalo for first place in the AFC East.
The Colts can't afford to continue to loss ground to the wild card leaders. They get some of their playmakers back on Sunday on both offense (running back, Joseph Addai) and on defense (defensive player of the year, safety Bob Sanders).
The Colts are getting healthier for a stretch run that they need to start. Beating New England today gives them not just a win against their hated rival but also a win against a conference opponent. No to mention, beating New England could possible come into play in playoff tie breakers, as head to head is the first tiebreaker.
2. Matt Cassel struggles under pressure.
|Cassel getting sacked|
Many people are buying into the hype that Cassel is turning into a decent NFL quarterback. They shouldn't. While he has improved over the last couple of weeks, that improvement came against some of the worst defenses in the NFL. St. Louis and Denver don't come to mind when talking about defenses unless you talking about the worst defenses in the league or you have fantasy football players who are facing either team that week. Although the Colts have had one of the worse run defenses in the league (144.1 ranking them 26th in the NFL ) the run defense improves dramatically when Bob Sanders plays. Expect Sanders near the line all game. That means Cassel will have to pass the ball more. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have given the opposing offensive lines nightmares when they play and have had good games against the Patriots.
Some experts point to the improved play of the Patriots offensive line over the last two weeks. Those games were against subpar opponents Denver and St. Louis. Neither one of those two teams have been able to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback allowing opponents to have great offensive production. Whenever Cassel has faced pressure he has struggled. He will look at his first read, and if that is not available, he'll either tuck the ball under his arm to run (right into the defense) or take a sack. Indy will pressure Cassel. This is an important game to really gauge Cassel's development. So far he has not proven he can handle pressure. If that holds true on Sunday night, this will be a very long game for the Patriots.
3. The Patriots will not be able to run the ball effectively.
|No Sammy Morris to drive through tacklers|
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)
The equation is this: no Lamont Jordan and no Sammie Morris plus the return of Bob Sanders. Throw the statistics out of the window. The fact that Indy (as mentioned above) is 26th in the league in run defense and the Patriots are 6th in the NFL in rushing averaging 130.4 yards per game is meaningless. The Patriots accomplished most of that with Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan in the lineup. Kevin Faulk --although a very valuable member of the Patriots -- is a third down running back. He always have been and always will be. He is not the type of back to consistently run between the tackles and move the chains all game long. Indy plays a fast aggressive defense and some of the screens the Patriots like to run will not be effective. BenJarvis Green-Ellis has not made anyone miss Morris or Jordan although he has given a nice effort.
4. The Patriots will not be able to pass the ball.
The Patriots are 23rd in the NFL in passing at 189.7 passing yards per game. Even though the Colts could not stop the run, they have been able to stop the pass. The Colts allow 178 passing yards a game, which ranks second in the NFL. And the defensive player of the year (Bob Sanders) returns from injury today. Cassel and not Tom Brady is New England's quarterback on the road against a team with its back to the playoff wall. Nothing more needs to be said.
5. Peyton Manning will be Peyton Manning today.
The Patriots defense will show up one week and seemingly take the next week off. Even at their very best Peyton Manning poses a very big threat for not just the Patriots defense but also any defense in the NFL. If the Patriots cannot get pressure on Manning allowing him time to pass, this will be a blow out Indy victory. It is delusional to think the Patriots can win or even be competitive in a shoot out. Even with a healthy defensive backfield, the Patriots could not stop Manning. Ellis Hobbs is still hobbled although reports are that he will play. Even when healthy Hobbs is nothing more than a third or nickel cornerback. He is first string here in New England because they have no one else to be. The Colts run a precision-based offense with timed routes. If New England is unable to throw the timing off by putting pressure on Manning, to either sack him or frustrate him into making errant throws, the Patriots secondary has no chance against the Colts receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzales.
Let's not forget about Rodney Harrison being out, so there goes the first line of defense against Dallas Clark. Also, Joseph Addai is back from injury. Guess who will benefit from the Patriots being unable to stop the Colts passing attack?
I predict at least a 17-point Colt victory today. Next week's game against Buffalo will be even more important after this one is in the books.