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Who are the 2010 New England Patriots?
Are they the team that got embarrassed by the 3-6 Cleveland Browns, or the team that shredded the 6-3 Pittsburgh Steelers?
We’ll find out in Week 11 when Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (6-3) come to Foxboro to challenge the Patriots (7-2) in yet another battle for AFC supremacy.
Like the Steelers, the Colts are riddled with injuries, and it appears the Pats might be catching another tough opponent at an opportune time.
While the Patriots dismantled the Steelers 39-26 last Sunday night, the Colts barely hung on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-17.
Linebackers Clint Session and Gary Brackett, running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, and wide receivers Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne are all listed as questionable for Indy. They will also be without safety Bob Sanders, tight end Dallas Clark, and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.
It seems like these two teams meet every year, whether it’s in the regular season or the playoffs. —And in fact they do. The Colts and Patriots have met at least once a season dating back to 2003, and three of those meetings occurred in the playoffs. The last five meetings have been decided by seven points or less, so we should be in for another thriller on Sunday.
Here’s another fun fact: Every year the Patriots have beaten the Colts they’ve gone to the Super Bowl.
The best way to neutralize the Colt’s high-powered offense is to keep them off the field. That means Tom Brady and the Patriots offense need to sustain long scoring drives. This will also allow the Pats to keep their 30th ranked defense off the field as well.
The Patriots currently rank 25th in the NFL in time possession. They’ll have to improve upon that this Sunday.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the Pats have to establish the run. They’ve proven they’re more than capable of eating up clock by dinking and dunking their way down the field—just look what they did in Pittsburgh last week.
The Colts have been doing a lot of dinking and dunking themselves this season. With most of his arsenal suffering from injuries, Manning hasn’t been able to stretch the field as often, as the Colts currently rank 21st in the NFL in yards per play.
If the Patriots can maintain an advantage in time of possession, Manning will be forced to move the ball quicker, and make some risky throws that could result in turnovers.
Right now Reggie Wayne is by far the Colts’ most dangerous offensive weapon. If the Patriots can make Wayne a non-factor, Manning will be forced to look to less-trusted guys like backup tight end Jacob Tamme and wide receiver Pierre Garcon to make plays for him.
Wayne had 10 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns against the Pats last year.
I expect the Patriots to use rookie corner back Devin McCourty to cover Wayne and provide him with plenty of help over the top with safeties Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather.