Saturday, January 20, 2007

Patriots Talk-

This image worked well last week, so I'm not going to monkey with success.

Tomorrow's game should be very interesting- the Patriots and Colts have played each other a lot, know each other, and the quarterbacks are good friends. A ton of megabytes have been expended this week putting the game in context, so I won't repeat it. If you care at all, you already know that the teams have met twice in the playoffs in the last five years, with the Pats coming away with the win both times, and that this hangs like an albatross around the reputations of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and his Colts. You may also know that the last two times the teams met (both regular season games) the Colts won.

You have probably already figured out that the outcome of tomorrow's game will hang on which defense is going to do a better job of keeping the other team's offense in check. 'Nuff said.

So let's talk about trends.

There has been a recent dramatic uptick in the Colt's defense, which has gone from Awful to Awesome with the return of a few key players, but a little grinding by the Pats offense could easily offset that. The Colts offense seems to be trending downwards in the past five weeks, cratering with last weekend's pitiful game with Baltimore, which neither team seemed to want to win. On the other hand, the Patriots, as they often do, seem to have been getting stronger and stronger as the final weeks of the season and opening weeks of the playoffs have progressed. In particular, their receivers finally seem to be clicking with Brady.

Let's roll the videotape. The last five Colts' games results vs. opponents were-

34/16 (Cincinnati)
24/27 (Houston)
27/22 (Miami)
23/8 (Kansas City)
15/6 (Baltimore)

Meanwhile, the Patriots were doing this-

40/7 (Houston)
24/21 (Jacksonville)
40/23 (Tennessee)
37/16 (Jets)
24/21 (San Diego)

Here's an interesting stat- the last two times the teams met the Colts won, but since 2001 the Patriots are 7-1 when facing an opponent they lost to in a prior game that season. Another interesting stat to keep in the back of your mind is that the Patriots have become aggressive and adept at converting 4th downs. They rank #1 in the NFL in this stat, with an .800 success rate. The Colts rank last, not having attempted it once this year. Now, with Adam Vinatieri as your kicker one can see the point in trying for a field goal instead of going for it, but the Pats will basically try, and succeed, anywhere around the 50 yard line in certain circumstances, and I have to think that's a valuable skill to have.

I'm looking at the Patriots as able to score at least 3 touchdowns on offense, and for their defense to force a turnover which results in another touchdown. To that I'll add a pair of field goals. I think the Pats can hold the Colts to two touchdowns, and give Vinatieri three field goals, one for more than 45 yards.

Final Score: Patriots 34 - Colts 23

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