What to Look For…

The 7-2 New England Patriots and the 6-3 Indianapolis Colts are in similar positions.  Both are either in or tied for first place in their division.  Both teams are being challenged by other teams in their division for what was once perennially considered “their title.”  Both teams are led by the two best quarterbacks in the league, a title that each has held for at least the last five years.  Both teams rely much more heavily on passing the ball than running the ball, and do a great job continuing their offensive effectiveness.  So, what separates these two franchises in this game?  Well…

-What is often overlooked in matchups between two very good teams is the difference that coaching will make.  Bill Belichick has been one of, if not the best coach in the NFL for the past decade.  Jim Caldwell has been considered a good coach, but in my opinion has not been as great as thought by many.  Belichick is a master of scheme and creating confusion for the other team.  Caldwell throws Peyton out on the field and tells him to work his magic.  Each method has been successful, but when it comes down to it, I’m siding with Belichick every time.  What to look for: How the coaching matchup between Jim Caldwell and Bill Belichick plays out.

-All I keep hearing this week is about the matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  Well, as much as I would love to see it, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never are afforded the opportunity to truly play against each other.  So, the biggest matchup of the day is between Peyton Manning and the Patriots’ back 8.  The back eight consists of the linebackers and the secondary (in their base 3-4 defense of course; the number 8 is subject to change depending on the defensive formation).  Manning, as we all know, is a master of diagnosing defenses pre-play, making adjustments to the look that he gets, and then audibling to a better play.  What to look for: How Jerod Mayo and Brandon Meriweather diagnose Manning’s audibles and change the defensive play accordingly.

-The Colts are going to be without Gary Brackett and Joseph Addai.  Addai has been hurt for a large portion of this season, so Donald Brown should slide into his spot quite seamlessly.  Bracket has been injured pretty often as well, but he is the “brain” of that Colts’ defense.  Brackett makes defensive audibles and often sets the coverage for Indy.  What to look for: How Tom Brady and the Patriots offense takes advantage of the Colts missing Gary Brackett.

-By far the biggest matchup of the day is how Matt Light and Sebastian Volmer fair against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.  As most know, Mathis and Freeney are two of the better pass rushers in the league.  Because they are often on the field at the same time, it is difficult to double team both.  Therefore, at various times throughout the game, Light and Volmer will be forced to block these two good pass rushers one-on-one.  What to look for: How effectively Matt Light and Sebastian Volmer contain Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis one-on-one.

THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 37 – Colts 35