Indianapolis at New England
What the Colts have to do to win:
Offensively, the Colts ran well in the first matchup but still wound up losing. The Patriots probably would rather the Colts run and take longer sustained drives than attack their injury depleted secondary. Also, by having more plays, the Colts would have more chances at turning over the ball or having more penalties. To combat that, offensive coordinator Tom Moore should go right at the Patriot injured secondary to move the ball down field.
The Colts should go with predominantly three receiver sets which should open the running lanes since the Patriots would then have to commit an extra defender.
The other good thing about using an extra receiver is that Patriots would have to put untested defensive backs on the field such as Troy Brown and rookie Randall Gay. Those players give the Colts a huge advantage in the passing game any time they step on the field.
The tight ends also should
have good matchups since the Patriots will likely try to slow down their
receivers with zone coverage. The bottom line is quarterback Peyton Manning will
have plenty of ways to attack the Patriot defense and to be successful.
Defensively, the Colts philosophy is to attack the quarterback and not worry about stopping the run as much. The problem is they will face one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL lead by Corey Dillon. The linebackers will have to be very disciplined in their gaps and not miss many tackles or Dillon will run wild.
With second-year end Robert Mathis (knee) likely out, they'll need another player to find a way to get to the quarterback besides end Dwight Freeney. The pressure will be on their other starting end, Raheem Brock, to step up his play.
To help slow down the running game, we expect rookie safety Bob Sanders to be very active. He's also worth using as a blitzer to put heat on quarterback Tom Brady.
If the Colts aren't successful in getting pressure on Brady, that will put their very average secondary out on an island all game.
What the Patriots have to do to win:
Offensively, as noted above, the Colts aren't a team that is concerned about the run and they have more of a bend but don't break defense. With that being the case, Dillon should be able to run all day on them. That should help set up the play action game where Brady, like Manning, can be very successful.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis should be able to attack the Colt secondary where his receivers have a clear advantage in speed.
The Colts go to mostly cover-2 zone schemes to it's important that they attack their secondary with underneath passes. Receiver David Givens is good at going underneath as is tight end Daniel Graham.
Defensively, the Patriots usually like to play the Colts with more man coverage but that won't be able to be achieved because the team will be without their starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole due to injury. We expect them to go with more cover-2 looks in this game and really will have no choice but to do so. Plus, starting defensive lineman Richard Seymour (knee) could be limited even if plays at all so pressure on Manning could be a problem.
They will have to try to slow down the passing game by going with an extra defensive back as much as possible. The Patriots would be more inclined for the Colts to run for 200 yards then hold them out of the endzone than have them go after their injured secondary. The only problem there is Manning likes to work out of a no huddle a lot so they may not be able to change personnel as much as they would like to.