Don't miss 5 reasons why the Pats will lose
Why the Patriots will Win
The Pats are 5.5 point underdogs by some accounts and it's a well deserved spread. New England hasn't done enough against good teams to warrant being a favorite in this one despite their record. Indy has lost to some very good teams, and the Patriots wins were against some of the worst defenses in the league. Yet despite all that, here are 5 reasons Pats fans should be optimistic about the Pats pulling out the upset Sunday night.
1. The Colts Are Really Banged Up
Bob Sanders and Joseph Addai are returning this week after being out due to injuries, but the rest of the team had to play last week The Colts lost to the Titans in a game that took its toll on the Colts. Tennessee is one of the most physical teams in the NFL. Their defense has the ability smack opponents in the mouth. Indy had 13 players missing practice at different times over the course of the week including Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett. If those bumps are a little more than that, it can only favor New England, who has its own injury struggles. DB Marlin Jackson was placed on IR this week. Jackson was the player who picked off Tom Brady in the AFC Championship two seasons ago on a pass intended for Troy Brown. Indy has had to shuffle players around, and with Moss, Welker and Ben Watson as possible threats downfield, New England should be able to move the ball.
2. Manning Is Struggling
Piggybacking off the injury concerns for the Colts is the issues affecting Indianapolis' quarterback Peyton Manning. After coming off knee surgery, Manning has struggled to get into a rhythm all season. He has ten TDs but also 9 INTs on the season. He has complete just 61 percent of his passes for a woeful 6.6 yards per pass average. Matt Cassel has had his own struggles, but he is at least completing more passes (65.8 percent) for a better average (6.8 per pass) for a better rating 84.6 vs Manning's 79.0 number.
Stats mean little in the grand scheme of things unless they correlate directly to results on the field. Manning's numbers through seven games last year (2007) were 11 TDs and only 3 INTs. He's forcing the ball more this season, which plays into New England's hands.
3. Colts Defense Has Trouble Vs The Run
|Faulk can be the equalizer|
If there's one thing the Patriots desperately need on Sunday night, that's a strong running game. Though they managed just 98 yards against the Rams, the Patriots were able to run the ball when they needed to. That success with Kevin Faulk in the backfield allowed New England to run other plays out of the run formation. If New England can take advantage of Indy's 26th ranked defense, which has allowed 144.1 yards per game, then the Patriots offense can get away from being one-dimensional. That's exactly what New England needs to take pressure off their young passer.
4. Last Year Was Last Year
In 2007 when the Patriots played the Colts during the regular season, they had everything going their way They were undefeated, Tom Brady was scoring in bunches with Randy Moss and Wes Welker and even the Running game was doing well, averaging over 4 yards per carry. Despite all th
e obvious advantages, the Patriots trailed the Colts 20-10 in the fourth quarter of that game. New England roared back to score twice in the final minutes to win 24-20.
The Colts are favored to win this week, and they face a team without Tom Brady, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison or Laurence Maroney. Those are four players who played big roles in last year's win, which will give Indy a boost in confidence - possibly overconfidence. Playing at home will also give them the edge, but the Patriots still have 5 things that helped them win the game from last season: Randy Moss, Kevin Faulk, Wes Welker, Mike Vrabel (Who sacked Manning to snuff out one late Drive) and Jarvis Green (who sacked Manning forcing a fumble which turned into the winning score).
All Matt Cassel needs to do is to manage the game efficiently, relying on Moss, Welker Faulk and the Patriots improving front seven on defense to support the team's effort. He doesn't need to be Tom Brady, he just needs to manage the game like Brady did. Easier said than done, but still possible.
As long as the Patriots don't expect to win like they did in 2007, they should be able to pull off the upset this week.
5. The Patriots Secondary Is NOT That Bad
|Even hurt, O'Neal can make plays|
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
One of the top reasons given for the Patriots to lose this week is their penchant to give up the big play. That much is true as pointed out in last week's 5 Reasons, but they also have the ability to win despite giving up those plays. Opposing offenses have turned in some of their best performances against the Patriots. The 49ers have a penchant for big plays managing 31 passing plays of 20 yards or more. The Denver Broncos have found success with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to record 22 passing plays of 20 yards or more and four of at least 40 yards. The New York Jets also have 4 plays of over 40 yards or more on the season while the St. Louis Rams have managed 20 plays of 20 yards or more with 7 of 40 yards or more. What do all those big play offenses have in common? They all lost to New England despite making big plays against a supposed poor secondary.
Giving up the big play is not something the Patriots can continue to do, but it won't kill them to do it once or twice a game. What New England needs to do is to tackle players before they score. A look back at the Chiefs game illustrates how important it is to make those TD saving tackles on a big play. Were it not for Deltha O'Neal's TD saving tackle, the Chiefs could have tied or won the first game of the season.
New England's defense ranks 11th overall after yielding 20 passing plays of 20 yards or more. They'll just have to focus on keeping the Colts out of the end zone on the ones over 40, which they've given up 7 times. If Bill Belichick has anything to do with it, you can bet he's focused on that issue this week. After all, Manning has just 20 plays of 20 yards or more putting him right in the middle of the league (T-13th overall) with teams like the Lions, Falcons and Vikings.