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News Blitz 1/7: Gronk's knee surgery set for Thursday

Posted Jan 7, 2014

In this edition of the Patriots.com News Blitz, we take a look at a few previews of Saturday's game and focus on which players could be the X-factor's in the matchup against the Colts.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe believe's Saturday's game will be a cakewalk for New England. He says that although Andrew Luck is a tremendous young quarterback, he is not ready to play a Belichick-coached team in the playoffs. Shaughnessy notes that the Colts appear to be a team that is happy to simply make it this far and that their defense is very weak, specifically in the run game.

"They have all the incredients Bill Belichick loves in a playoff chump," says Shaughnessy. "If you were going to draw up a Hoodie dream playoff opponent, you would ask for a dome team with a young quarterback, a neophyte coach, and a bad defense."

Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star agrees that the Colts defense will struggle against Brady and the Patriots offense. He notes that the Colts are expecting a strong rushing attack from the Patriots as well as Brady's usual precision through the air. Holder believes that the running back combination of LeGarrette Blound, Steven Ridley, and Shane Vereen will be very difficult for the Colts to stop and will present a lot of issues for their defense.

"But whatever the Patriots do, this much is guaranteed: It will be well-executed and difficult to predict, presenting one of the stiffest tests the Colts defense will have faced this season," claims Holder.

The Bleacher Report's Tyler Brooke listed four players that he believes will be the biggest X-Factors in Saturday's game. For Indianapolis, he named defensive end Cory Redding and running back Donald Brown. Brown will be a key to this game as the Colts have relied heavily on their run game in their wins -- in fact, in the Colts 12 wins this season, they have averaged nearly 123 yards rushing.  In their 5 losses, they have averaged less than 74 yards on the ground.

For the New England X-Factors, Brooks listed Julian Edelman and Devin McCourty as the most important players. He believes that McCourty could play a big role if he is able to help force a turnover. If Luck makes a mistake, McCourty needs to be there to take advantage.

One player that will not be making an impact for the Patriots is Brandon Spikes. Yesterday Spikes was placed on season-ending injured reserve yesterday and ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss offered up his analysis on the situation. Reiss praised Spikes' toughness considering he's played through the knee injury through a large part of the 2013 season. He also mentions how the loss of Spikes may not hurt the Patriots badly this week against the Colts or even next week if the Patriots were to win. However, it would play a big role if the Patriots were to make it to the Super Bowl and play a team like Seattle, San Francisco, or Carolina. As a the best run-stopping linebacker on the Patriots roster, Spikes would be a key component in stopping those team's powerful running games. One thing that should be noted is that Sunday's win against the Buffalo Bills may have been Spikes' last game in a Patriots uniform. Reiss points out that he is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Indianapolis made a roster move yesterday as well -- but for them it was an addition rather than a subtraction. The Los Angeles Times ran a story by the Associated Press about the Colts signing of former Patriot receiver, Deion Branch. In last Saturday's 45-44 win, the Colts loss WR Darrius Heyward-Bey to a hamstring injury, thus creating the need for a receiver.  And who better to bring in than a player who knows how Brady and Belichick think.

"What Indianapolis gets is a 34-year-old veteran with two Super Bowl rings whow was the Super Bowl MVP in New England's third title run. Branch has 64 receptions for 958 yards with four touchdowns in the postseason and tied Jerry Rice's Super Bowl record for receptions with 11 in February 2005."

WEEI's Christopher Price writes that the Patriots are using an old school formula in its attempt to win a Super Bowl. Price says that if the Patriots were to win Super Bowl XLVIII next month, they would be the first team to win a Super Bowl with four running backs with at least 40 carries since the 1987 Washington Redskins. The Patriots running-back-by-committee style has worked well for the team so far, and is one reason why Price likes the Patriots in Saturday's matchup against the Colts.

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports that Rob Gronkowski will have his surgery to repair his torn ACL and MCL on Thursday. Dr. James Andrews is the surgeon who will operate on Gronkowski. This will be his eighth surgery of his career.

One of the key components to the Patriots group of running backs is LeGarrette Blount. Blount is one of 20 Patriots players who will be playing in their first playoff game on Saturday. Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe writes about what the playoffs will be like for those 20 players.