New England Patriots (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Indianapolis Colts (3-2 SU, 1-4ATS)
Pro Football Week 6
Date/Time: Sunday, October 18th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium
by Mike M., NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Patriots -8 / Colts +8
Over/Under Total: 55
The New England Patriots head down to Indianapolis to battle the Colts in a rematch of last years AFC Championship, which the Patriots won in Foxboro 45-7.
New England has dominated the series in recent history, winning six straight games against Indy including all four games the teams have played against one another since the Colts drafted Andrew Luck. In those four matchups against Luck the Patriots won by at least 21 points in each and by an average of 29 points per game. The Colts air apparent to Peyton Manning has struggled mightily against New England, especially in their two playoff games that they lost by a combined score of 86-29 with Luck throwing just two touchdowns compared to six interceptions. The Colts starter has missed their last two games with an injury to his throwing shoulder but is listed as questionable to play Sunday night. If not, the team will again go with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm, who has performed well with Luck out and has led the team to back-to-back victories. Hasslebeck is one of three remaining players from the 1998 NFL Draft that is still active, the other two being future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning, who went first, and Charles Woodson, who was drafted fourth by Oakland. Oddly enough the other three players drafted in the top five never played another game after the 2001 season, infamous quarterback Ryan Leaf, defensive end Andre Wadsworth and running back Curtis Enis.
The Colts enter the game with a 3-2 record after beginning the year with double-digit losses to Buffalo and the Jets and then winning three straight against their three AFC South foes, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston, each of whom have just one win on the season so far. Indy has done a great job of taking advantage of their inferior divisional opponents, winning their last fifteen AFC South games since the start of the 2013 season. On the contrary, they have a record of just 13-14 against the rest of the NFL.
While Tom Brady and the passing game of the Patriots has gotten a lot of the attention for their recent games against the Colts, its been their power running game bulldozing through a soft Colts defense that has been the key factor in their last three victories. In their 43-22 divisional playoff victory in 2014, LeGarrette Blount ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns followed by a regular season matchup at Indy the following year in which Jonas Gray ran through the Colts for 201 yards and four touchdowns. In last years heavily dissected AFC Championship game it was Blount again doing the most damage, running 30 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots scored touchdowns on their first four second-half possessions on their way to a dominating 45-7 victory. It is what happened after that game that will be the major focus for this weeks matchup.
The story behind the story started a week before the AFC Championship after the Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens 34-31 in the AFC divisional round, a game in which the Ravens became the first team in NFL history to blow two 14-point leads in a playoff game. During the game New England went creative and used completely legal but not often used offensive formations to throw off the Ravens. These worked perfectly for the Patriots and led directly to touchdowns on two separate drives and also had the added bonus of throwing Baltimore off their game as they seemed so hapless and flustered in trying to stop New England which was clearly evident by their coach John Harbaugh acting like a grounded teenager when angrily confronting/whining to the refs about the Patriots formations that his team had no clue how to stop. After the game (which improved New Englands record against Baltimore to 9-3 all time), Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked in the press conference about Harbaughs sideline tantrum reaction to their play calling was quoted as saying maybe those guys need to study the rule book, which sure didnt help alleviate the situation and more so incensed the Ravens, as it has since come out that after the game Baltimore tipped off the Colts GM Ryan Grigson to be on the lookout for deflated balls, which was clearly the reason for their loss and not because they got outcoached or set an NFL record with their lead-choking ways . But we must not forget how important it is for the Ravens to protect the sanctity of the league, whether it was last years attempted cover-up (with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) of the Ray Rice elevator beating or the complete lack of action when it comes to their players being involved with horrific acts like covering up a murder (Ray Lewis) or a repeated domestic abuser who poured bleach on a child while choking his mother (Terrell Suggs).
With the crybaby baton passed onto Indianapolis, Grigson and the Colts sanctimonious owner Jim Irsay took over from there. During/after the Patriots destroyed their team 41-7 so thoroughly that Indy tight end Dwayne Allen was quoted as saying they could have played with soap balls and beat us, Grigson complained to the NFL about the air pressure in the game balls and then Irsay later leaked the story to a local beat writer friend of his and ESPNs Chris Mortensen, who has seen his reputation plummet for his one-sided reporting of the case and more so for not taking any sort of professional accountability when repeated statements he has made have proven to be false. I didnt think ESPNs attempt at being a legitimate news source could fail anymore than the deplorable Lebron James Decision special in 2010, but their handling of Deflategate and continuous instances of being a lackey for the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell will only further the prolonged tarnishing of their reputation.
In the long run, the NFL spent an estimated three million dollars on the Excusegate scandal, which ultimately amounted to zero punishment for Tom Brady after a judge put their case to shame and ruled in favor of the quarterback. In a league that has an increasing image problem growing worse by the day due to their troubling amount of players involved in domestic violence cases and complete ignorance when it came to protecting the long term health of their players, it seems odd that they would waste so much money on a suspect investigation driven mainly by two teams rather then focus on the embarrassing lot of issues that need addressing sooner then later. Like say the fact that September 2015 was the first calendar month in SIX YEARS that no NFL players were arrested.
Even if you take out the emotional factor, it would be difficult to go against the Patriots this week. Andrew Luck may not play and even if he can gut it out at nowhere near 100%, the rest of the team has struggled against anything resembling quality opponents this year while New England has dominated through their first four games, winning by an average of over two touchdowns. The Tom Brady led team has the number one rated passing offense and total offense in football, while the Colts rank 28th in total and passing defense, which speaks volumes considering they have only gone against quarterbacks that are inexperienced (Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles) or second stringers (Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer). The addition of the revenge factor adds even stronger support to a Patriots win and cover. They have responded strong in the past when tested/doubted/accused in anyway and after what has gone on over the past ten months this week should be payback like no other. Success causes contention and as long as New England continues to triumph despite the intended parity of the NFL, they can expect the same hatred from detractors and those that struggle to beat them, which as history has shown and time again since Bill Belichick arrived as their head coach will only further add internal motivation for them to wreck havoc on the rest of the league.
Mikes Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -8
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