(image courtesy of: www.theguardian.com)
For the 4th straight year the New England Patriots are in the AFC Championship game, they are at home which also happens to be the 3rd time in 4 years they host the AFC title game. It will be a great match up between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. Here is a breakdown of how every position on the Patriots will factor in to the game, or as I call it “keys to victory”.
Tom Brady was Tom Terrific against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday helping lead the New England Patriots back from two 14 point deficits to win. Aside from three passing touchdowns he also took matters in to his own hands and ran one in for a score. On passes that were thrown within two seconds of the snap he was 22-22 for 209 yards and 3 touchdowns. Look for the Patriots to utilize the quick passing game against the Colts. Brady will have himself a game.
When it comes to the Patriots you never know who will run the ball, they are a team that likes to run by committee, the last time the Patriots played the Colts they ran all over them totaling 246 yards, 199 by Jonas Gray who also scored 4 touchdowns. The New England Patriots can either run or throw on anyone and they have proved it this season, the backs will play a big role in the game to help set up the play action and keep the Colts on their heels, it will help open the deep passing game.
Danny Amendola has emerged for the Patriots, Edelman is back to health and Brandon LaFell has been a nice addition for the Patriots this season. All three will see the ball thrown their way, Amendola could end up having himself quite a game if he can play the way he has been, LaFell and Edelman will draw attention allowing Amendola to be a factor in this game. Shane Vereen while listed as a running back is a threat in the passing game, the Patriots should have some screen plays drawn up for him to better help open the passing attack.
Last time these two teams met both of Brady’s passing scores went to the tight ends, one each to Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright. Gronkowski is a go to guy, I think his presence will allow Tim Wright to have opportunities this game, Gronkowski will be the main red zone target but if the Colts pay to much attention to Gronkowski then I foresee Wright being wide open.
The New England Patriots offensive line must give Brady plenty of protection and also create holes for their running backs, as long as they can protect Brady and help the running backs reach the second level of the defense they Patriots could have a field day.
In the divisional round the Patriots did not sack Joe Flacco once, this cannot happen this weekend against a talented quarterback such as Andrew Luck because he can use his legs to create more time for his targets to get open. The New England Patriots defensive line must contain Luck and bring him down as well as get in his face.
Look for Jamie Collins to be a spy on Andrew Luck and match up one on one with tight end Colby Fleener, as a whole this unit will have to stop routes across the middle and make Luck throw to the outside where Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner will be lurking. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots dial up blitzes with linebackers going after Andrew Luck.
A mixture of zone coverage and man coverage will be in the works on Sunday, Revis should be on T.Y. Hilton most of the game while Browner can cover Reggie Wayne, as for Hakeem Nicks I expect Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington to switch covering him. The safeties will also play a very important role in this game, if they can keep the passes in front of them it will be an issue for the Colts, they will have to try and throw deep balls to look for explosive plays in order to hang in there against the Patriots in Gillette Stadium.
One thing: Don’t allow Josh Cribbs to get into open space, he isn’t who he used to be but that does not mean they can allow him to get an open field on any return.
PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR
Jamie Collins, he will have a big role in both containing Andrew Luck and stopping Colby Fleener from doing much of anything.
Vince Wilfork, he loves getting those sacks when he can, I say he gets his hands on Luck a few times even if he just gets one sack I think he will get him on the ground.
Jonas Gray, because why not! I would love to see get another chance to gash the Colts defense.
Shane Vereen, screen passes and short passes will give him the space he needs to work his magic and there will be a deep ball thrown his way.
Tim Wright, if Gronkowski is covered well in the red zone then look out for this young man! A touchdown could be on order for him.
Tom Brady, its a big stage so there will be a lot of great plays coming from this first ballot hall of fame quarterback!