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El Clásico Preview: Quarterbacks and Runningbacks

In the sixth and final edition of a week long preview of the Colts vs. Pats (deemed El Clásico after a world famous European football rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid), I’ll take a look at the quarterbacks and running backs for each team.

Patriots: Tom Brady: Brady is putting on a show for the ages. 30 touchdown passes, two interceptions in just eight games. Brady is on pace to shatter Peyton Manning’s record for most TDs in a season and leads an offense who just might set a few records themselves. Brady has an potent arsenal at his disposal and has taken advantage of it. On Sunday he just needs to keep it going. If he has time in the pocket, he shouldn’t have trouble finding open receivers. If he has to scramble, then the game plan will have to change and the Patriots could be in trouble. Brady knows what he has to do, and will be looking to avenge last year’s poor result in the AFC title game.

Colts: Peyton Manning: After years of waiting, Manning finally got his Super Bowl ring last year. Though he was more of a hindrance to his team throughout the playoffs (three TDs, seven picks), he was able to finally come through in the clutch and beat the Pats in a meaningful game. It’s the same story for Manning this Sunday, stay on his feet, find the open receivers. It might be tougher for Manning because LT Tony Ugoh is hurting and the rookie protects Manning’s blindside. Manning does have the advantage of a more proven running game this time around but faces a stinger defense Sunday than he’s faced all season.

The Verdict: It’s the best of the best on Sunday. These two will go down as two of the best quarterbacks ever to strap on the pads. As Sunday looks, Manning has won three straight in the match up, but Brady has never had a receiver like Moss to throw to. Both QBs should have big games, but Brady is looking sharper than ever. Edge: Patriots

Patriots: Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk: Maroney has slowly come back after missing three games with a groin injury. He’ll need to prove his mettle this Sunday to take a little pressure off Brady. With Maroney, it’s all about running north up field, not dancing before hitting the hole which he tends to do at times. Faulk’s main purpose is on third down situations and in screen passes. It’s been hit or miss this year as far as screen passes go. The Pats haven’t used them nearly as much in the past, and some games not at all. With Sammy Morris gone for the year, it will be important for one of the two backs to step up and prove they can handle duties near the goal line, or Mike Vrabel might be seeing even more action in the future. The Patriots have yet to pound the ball 30-40 times against any team and this could be the week to do it, with the safeties having to stay deep in cover 2 to guard against Moss and Stallworth.

Colts: Joseph Addai: Addai has done everything the Colts could’ve expected in 2007. He has around 700 total yards from scrimmage and seven TDs. Addai is a better receiver than his counterpart Maroney so that adds another aspect to the Colts attack. It’s much more important for the Colts to establish the run on Sunday. Unlike in years past where the Colts didn’t need the run, making the Colts one dimensional on Sunday will give the Patriots a huge advantage.

The Verdict: Maroney seems near 100% and ready to burst out again. Faulk’s versatility and experience could play a big role on Sunday in the jungle atmosphere. But Addai is a powerful runner and has the skills to take the load off Manning. I think he will have success running the ball, more success than Manning have passing it. Edge: Colts

Tomorrow before the game I’ll recap my preview and make final predictions.

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