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News Blitz 1/8: In Spikes absence, Collins and Fletcher must step up

Posted Jan 8, 2014

In today's edition of the Patriots.com new blitz, we take a look at some of the key match-ups for Saturday's game and focus on the players who must step up with the loss of Brandon Spikes

Over the first 34 starts of their respective careers, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck have a lot of similarities. Each won 23 games and had very similar numbers over that span. However, according to Field Yates of ESPN Boston, Brady isn't focusing on the hype between him and his younger counterpart. He says that Brady's motivation only motivation is to help his team win -- nothing more.

"So while Luck understandably looks up to Brady in terms of what he has accomplished in his career," writes Yates. "Brady reinforced on Wednesday that playing against a team with an upstart quarterback hasn't influenced his motivation."

As the Patriots prepare to face the best offense they have seen since playing the Denver Broncos in week 12, Jamie Collins and Dane Fletcher will need to step up due to the loss of Brandon Spikes. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald writes that Fletcher and Collins have been used primarily in passing downs but will now see expanded rolls this week against the Colts. He expects Fletcher to take Spikes' spot in the middle of the team's base 4-3, while Collins will play the weak side linebacker.

"Spikes' unrelenting run pursuit, passion, and nastiness will be lost, though. It's the type of thing that can't be factored into the X's and O's," explains Howe. "The impending free agent will likely be around the facility most of the time, as he was yesterday, and the emotion can spread behind the scenes."

ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss echoed this notion about the loss of Spikes' on-field intangibles. He quotes Dont'a Hightower who praises Spikes as a leader and also comments on his own development as a player.

"I've been there, done that, trying to do too much," said Spikes. "It didn't work for me. I fell back. But everything is finally coming back to play."

In another post, Reiss also notes that Pete Morelli has been announced as the Referee for Saturday's game. Morelli's crew is known for throwing very few flags -- he was the referee on December 1 when the Patriots traveled to Houston to play the Texans. New England was not called for a penalty in that game.

The Providence Journal explains that the Patriots aren't the only team familiar with the 'next-man-up' motto. Paul Kenyon writes that the Colts have suffered multiple injuries this season as well, none bigger than the loss of Reggie Wayne. With Wayne on the Injured Reserve, T.Y. Hilton was given the chance to shine and rise up to the need at wide receiver.

ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes that Saturday's matchup will be Adam Vinatieri's 25th Patriots-Colts game. Vinatieri spent 10 years in New England where he scored 122 points against the Colts alone. In his 8 years in Indianapolis, he has 37 points when playing the Patriots.

"It really never gets old," says Vinatieri. "Two great organizations, great coaches, great players obviously. It's one of those ones. It's the Sox-Yankees if you will."

NESN.com has a poll going this week that asks 'Is Adam Vinatier a Hall of Famer?' If he gets elected after retiring, Vinatier would be only the fourth kicker elected to the Hall of Fame.

Boston.com's Jeff Pini broke down 10 important matchups in the upcoming Patriots-Colts game. In each matchup, Pini explains which side has the edge. In the running game, Tom Curran believes the Patriots have a huge edge over the Colts defense. In an article postedn on CSNNE.com, Curran explains that the New England running backs could be a headache for Indianapolis. Despite losing Jamaal Charles early last week, the Chiefs still ran for 150 yards in the loss against the Colts.

Another matchup to watch will be T.Y. Hilton vs. the Patriots defense. Erik Frenz of Boston.com breaks down how New England will attempt to lineup against the Colts' best receiver. Hilton is a very versitle player who can beat teams deep (as he did last week in the Colts Wild Card matchup against Kansas City) and can be very dangerous on intermediate routes over the middle. The 5'9" receiver is very talented with the ball in his hands and can cause a lot of problems after the catch.