NFL Nation: 2014 Colts-Patriots Quick Take

Quick Take: Colts at Patriots

January, 5, 2014
1/05/14
5:30
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Three things to know about Saturday's Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. This will be the first playoff matchup between the two teams since the epic AFC Championship Game the Colts won 38-34 on Jan. 21, 2007.

1. Battle of receivers. Quick: Can you name a receiver on either team not named T.Y. Hilton? Andrew Luck of the Colts and Tom Brady of the Patriots are the two best quarterbacks in the league when it comes to getting the most out of their receivers. They both lost their primary receiving targets to injury this season. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne's season ended in Week 7 with a torn ACL. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's season ended with a torn ACL and MCL in Week 14. Receiver Julian Edelman led the Patriots in receiving this season with 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. Hilton, who set a franchise playoff record with 224 yards against Kansas City on Saturday, led the Colts with 1,083 yards and five touchdowns this season.

2. Ugly first game. Luck is making his second appearance against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. New England beat Indianapolis 59-24 during the 2012 season. The Colts led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and trailed only 24-17 at halftime, but the Patriots outscored them 35-7 in the second half. Luck was 27-of-50 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Brady was simply better, as expected. He was 24-of-35 for 331 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. But Brady won't have Gronkowski (137 yards) or Wes Welker (80 yards) to throw the ball to this time around. Hilton had six catches for 100 yards. Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman had 12 tackles in that game.

3. Stopping the run. Brady is obviously the focal point for the Patriots, but New England does have a decent running game, too. Running backs Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount finished within a yard of each other during the regular season, with Ridley gaining 773 yards and Blount rushing for 772 yards. They also combined for 14 touchdowns. The Colts, on the other hand, had Donald Brown rush for 537 yards and Trent Richardson finished with 458 yards.

Quick Take: Colts at Patriots

January, 5, 2014
1/05/14
4:25
PM ET
Three things to know about Saturday's Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium:

1. Luck and Mathis can control/take over a game: When dissecting the three possible Patriots opponents -- Bengals, Colts and Chiefs -- the feeling was that New England should beat them all if playing its best game. But the reason the Colts were listed as the least preferred matchup was because they had the difference-making quarterback in Andrew Luck. I don’t think the Colts' team is as good as the Patriots' team, but with Luck and defensive end Robert Mathis they have two players who can control/disrupt a game. That makes this matchup potentially dangerous. Also, while it might be tempting to label the Colts a dome team that will struggle playing in what figures to be challenging New England elements, it should be noted that Indianapolis played an excellent game in a decisive Week 16 victory at Kansas City. They have had some duds on the road this year, a 40-11 loss to the Cardinals on Nov. 24 comes to mind, but they’ve also had two impressive wins away from home -- the 27-7 win over the 49ers in Week 3 and the 23-7 win over the Chiefs in Week 16. The Patriots and Colts didn't play each other this season. The last meeting between the teams came in 2012, with the Tom Brady-led Patriots thumping the Luck-led Colts 59-24 on Nov. 18.

2. Talib on Hilton: With Reggie Wayne on season-ending injured reserve, T.Y. Hilton has emerged as the Colts’ go-to target. He was dynamic in the wild-card round win over the Chiefs (13 catches, 224 yards, 2 TDs) and it wouldn’t be surprising if cornerback Aqib Talib is called upon to match up against him. The Patriots haven’t had a matchup corner like Talib since Ty Law (1995-2004). The second-team All-Pro hasn’t matched up every week, but when he has, he’s mostly been very competitive.

3. Scouting the Colts’ defense and other connections: Colts teams under coach Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell were known for a 4-3 defense that was undersized but quick. This Colts defense has more of a Ravens-type look, which makes sense as second-year head coach Chuck Pagano was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator prior to coming to Indianapolis. They are bigger at the line of scrimmage and will vary their pressure calls. The Colts are banged-up in the secondary as that unit looked vulnerable in the wild-card round. If Brady gets protection -- and this is an obvious pregame storyline -- he should find some favorable matchups. In a bit of a local touch, the Colts come to town with two former Boston College players as their bookends on the offensive line -- left tackle Anthony Castonzo and right tackle Gosder Cherilus. Also, former Patriots cornerback Darius Butler is the Colts’ nickelback. The kicker, of course, is former Patriot Adam Vinatieri.

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