New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5, 57.5)
Tonight on Sunday Night Football (8:30 p.m. Eastern), two of the best teams in the AFC will face off in a rematch from last year’s playoffs, as the New England Patriots (7-2) face the Indianapolis Colts (6-3) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
All the focus heading into the game is on the two quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. After so many years of Manning/Brady hype dominating these games, it’s only natural to continue the trend with Luck under center in Indy, as the Stanford product is proving a worthy heir to Peyton. The third-year phenom is set to threaten the single-season passing record, and is just three games shy of the all-time record for consecutive 300-yard games.
However, Luck’s first two games against the Patriots were all too familiar for a fan base that came to dread the sight of Bill Belichick’s grey hoodie; he threw seven interceptions total, completed just over 50% of his passes, and was thoroughly outplayed by Brady both times.
Luck is eager to erase the memory of last year’s 43-22 playoff loss to the Pats, but, in order to do so, he will have to take care of the ball. The Patriots have been turnover savants this season, posting an NFL-best +12 turnover margin. (The Colts are even on the year.) While Luck is posting eye-popping passing numbers, and has Indy sitting at the top of the league in passing offense (337.4 yards per game), his turnover numbers are up from last season. Luck threw just nine picks all last year, and has already matched that number through nine games this season. Over half of his interceptions have come in Indy’s three losses.
Brady, meanwhile, has been downright greedy with the football, throwing just three picks. Brady’s total is the lowest in the league among QBs with at least 200 throws – and is lower than a lot of QBs who haven’t reached 200 throws (cough, cough, Jake Locker and Josh McCown).
On the defensive side of the ball, both teams will be missing key pieces due to injury. Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the injuries are to their sons, Chandler Jones (DE for New England) and Arthur Jones (DT for Indianapolis). Both defenses are middle-of-the-pack in yards allowed and, without the brothers Jones, will have an even harder time stopping the other team’s potent offense.
The Colts are currently 2.5-point favorites. After the Pats crushed the Broncos as home-dogs in week 9, one might think the oddsmakers had learned their lesson. But the Pats have been a different team on the road, sitting at just 2-2 on the year with bad losses to the Chiefs and Dolphins. Tonight’s game will be their first road contest in over a month.
That said, the Patriots are coming off of a bye and will be well-prepared for whatever the Colts have to offer. The Colts also had a bye in week 10, but only the Pats have the Hooded Fang patrolling their sideline.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (originally posted to Flickr as 836) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)