New England Patriots (5-2) +5.5, 44 O/U at Indianapolis Colts (3-4)
-5.5, 44 O/U, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind., 8:15 PM Eastern,
by Badger of Predictem.com
Sunday Night Football in America on NBC is back on national television this week after a one-week hiatus, and it returns with a
must see game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis
Colts in their brand new Lucas Oil Stadium.
Fans will be tuning into the show Sunday night to see which of these two perennial AFC powers fades off into the sunset to become an AFC afterthought.
The situation is certainly a dire one for the Colts. After losing to the Tennessee Titan on Monday Night last week, 31-21, they can all but kiss the AFC South title goodbye. Now their only hope left is for
one of the AFCs wildcard spots, but theyll have to play
significantly better then they have been in order to get there.
The Patriots have been able to keep the ship afloat since the loss of
MVP quarterback Tom Brady in the opener, but the injuries continue to
pile up on the defending AFC Champs and they too might eventually
settle for a wildcard spot. Although they are still tied for first in
the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots three wins in the
past four weeks have come against the 49ers, Broncos and Rams (last
week 23-16), who are a collective 8-14 this season. Enough said.
Oddsmakers opened the game with the Colts as 5-point favorites at
home, and the spread has only moved slightly to 5.5- or 6-point
favorites at most sportsbooks, depending on whether you wager
offshore (a few 6s) or in Las Vegas (all 5.5). The total opened at
45 and has dropped to 44 at just about every bookie, with a few
exceptions of some 44.5 at some offshore sportsbooks. The moneyline
lists Indy as -250 favorites, with the Patriots as +210 underdogs.
Patriot quarterback Matt Cassel has done an adequate filling in for
Brady, throwing for over 1,300 yards and seven touchdowns in six
games, but his inability to get the ball deep to Randy Moss has hurt
the Pats overall passing attack and theyve dropped down to become
the NFLs 23rd-ranked passing attack (189.7 ypg).
Many would be quick to point out that a lack of a strong running game
is more of a reason for the lack of passing success, but the Pats
actually have the 6th best rushing attack, averaging over 130 yards a
game despite all of their injuries at running back (Lawrence
Malroney, LaMont Jordan and Sammy Morris).
The Colts struggles on offense have been well documented. Peyton Manning has been slow to get healthy following offseason knee surgery, but the passing game is actually still 9th in the league at
241.7 yards per game. Its the Colts dead-last 32nd-ranked running
game (73.4 ypg), injuries along the offensive line, and the often-
injured status of starting running back Joseph Addai that has hurt
the units effectiveness.
The Patriots have been fighting against injuries on offense all season, but now the defensive unit will be forced to play
shorthanded, as safety Rodney Harrison will most likely be out the
rest of the year (torn quad), and nose tackle Vince Wilfork could be
suspended a few games by the NFL for too many cheap-shot personal
foul penalties. The loss of those two players weakens an already
suspect team versus the run (20th 113.3 ypg), and makes the
Patriots more vulnerable than ever to smash-mouth football.
Speaking of weak against the run, the Colts defense is a sieve giving
up 144.3 yards per game on the ground (26th in NFL). Even without
safety Bob Sanders and corner Kelvin Hayden, the Colts secondary
still only gives up 177.9 yards per game (2nd).
The head-to-head series between these two teams has been a roller
coaster ride. The Patriots spent years being the thorn in the Colts
side, winning six straight games from 2001 to 2005. But in 2005 the
Colts turned the tables and won three straight to become the team the
Patriots couldnt beat. Last November the Colts nearly made it four
straight, but a Brady-to-Kevin Faulk touchdown pass late in the
fourth quarter gave the Patriots a 24-20 victory in the old RCA Dome.
The betting history between the two follows the same path, as the
Patriots covered five out of six during their winning streak, while
the Colts have covered four straight since during their win streak.
However, the underdog is a sterling 10-3-1 ATS in the last 14 head-to-
head games in the series.
Other betting trends of note include the Patriots 7-2 ATS record in their last nine games on turf, versus the Colts 2-5 ATS record in
their last seven games on the indoor surface. Lucas Oil Stadium
hasnt played all that friendly either, as the Colts are just 1-2 ATS
so far this season.
Badgers Pick: The Colts get healthy this week with the return of Joseph Addai and S Bob Sanders. The return of Sanders is especially important for the success of the Colts. Look for them to get back on track here and to thread the needle vs. a soft New England team that really hasn’t beaten anybody worth a hoot this season.