The Colts will travel to face an old nemesis in the playoffs, the New England Patriots in the confines of Gillette Stadium.
Andrew Luck and the Colts are hot, and they will lead an aerial assault against the Patriots to attempt to take them down and advance another week.
Tom Brady, the playoff Jedi, will look to lead his team to a victory and to their 3rd straight AFC Championship birth.
No doubt both quarterbacks need to bring their A game but the winner will be decided by more than the play of Luck and Brady.
Let’s look at 3 other key matchups that will decide the game.
1. RB LeGarrette Blount/Stevan Ridley vs Colts rush defense
– This will play a big role in the game Saturday night. The Patriots have a very good run game, and they will be facing a Colts rush defense that’s ranked 26th in the league. This means the Colts have a hard time stopping the run and the Patriots can exploit that weakness Saturday.
The Colts are pretty good against the pass thanks to their pass rushers, but they can’t stop the run and New England can take full advantage of that if they want. The Patriots can’t go away from the run too soon or at all in the game, and make it the biggest part of their offense.
The Patriots offense is better when they run more and with the weather looking to be freezing, it should help New England.
A good running game will open up the play action for Tom Brady.
The Patriots can keep Luck off the field with their run game while putting it away by scoring.
Blount and Ridley look to lead the way on the ground and they better bring their A game because this is the Patriots best chance at winning soundly.
2. CB Aqib Talib vs T.Y. Hilton
– It would seem Talib will be on Hilton this weekend, giving Hilton is the best receiver for the Colts.
Hilton is only 5’9 but his speed allows him to burn defenders and create big plays. Hilton will be a handful for Talib and I’m actually worried about this matchup. I’m usually not worried about any receiver Talib defends but this one I’am. Talib has struggled with smaller, faster guys like Hilton. He struggled with Steve Smith and he struggled with the big Gordon, who had small guy speed. Can Talib keep up with Hilton? Hopefully he can and will, if he can’t the Patriots may have to adjust and put Logan Ryan or Kyle Arrington on him to match his speed.
But Talib really needs to keep this guy from making an impact on the game if New England wants to win. The Pats can’t let Hilton and Fleener go wild in this game or they’re not winning, simple.
The Patriots may want to play press coverage and jam Hilton and the other Colts receiver at the line and just out physical him. Talib is much bigger than Hilton and his physical nature should bother Hilton throughout the game.
We saw what the Colts are made of when Hilton is in a groove, the Pats can’t allow that this weekend.
3. Nate Solder vs Robert Mathis
– Big matchup here. The Patriots offensive line has to keep Brady protected against a stout Colts pass rush. If the Colts are getting pressure on Brady then the Pats are in for a long day on offense. Protecting Brady will always be a big key for the Patriots in winning or losing a ball game. If they protect him, the better Brady plays and the offense.
Mathis led the league in sacks with 19.5 and can create all sorts of havoc on a QB. This game will be no different for the veteran if New England can’t contain him.
Nate Solder is the best offensive linemen on the Patriots team and he and Mankins will need to anchor them this weekend.
Nate Solder needs to return to form and bring his best to win this matchup.