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Game Matchups: It could be a long day for the Colts secondary

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN


The New England running game has become a mix of Jonas Gray and Shane Vereen, with Gray filling the "big back" role. Although Vereen does get meaningful carries, he's at his best as a receiver out of the backfield. Neither player averaged more than 2.8 yards per carry against Denver, but the Broncos entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked defense against the run. The limited production the Patriots have been getting from their ground game hasn't prevented them from winning, so they've clearly found a formula that works. The Colts defense ranked ninth against the run entering their bye week (98.1 yards per game), but that statistic may be a bit misleading since the Indianapolis defense has been vulnerable through the air. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE COLTS RUN


The Colts running game has been solid for most of the season. They attack defenses with two running backs: Trent Richardson (108 carries for 391yards) and Ahmad Bradshaw (83-421). Each has run for two touchdowns this season. Their ability to move the ball on the ground when needed is one of the reasons the Colts led the NFL in time of possession through nine games (34:39 per game). The New England run defense has been a bit of a mystery. The Patriots have allowed three opponents to run for at least 191 yards. The Jets Chris Ivory (107 yards) and the Bears Matt Forte (114) each had 100-yard rushing games recently against New England, but the Patriots limited the Broncos to 43 yards rushing on 17 attempts. ADVANTAGE: COLTS

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS


Looks like a mismatch here. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger scorched the Colts defense for 522 yards passing and six touchdowns in Week 8. The way New England quarterback Tom Brady has been playing, it could be another long day for the Indianapolis secondary. Brady has thrown 18 touchdown passes and been intercepted once in New England's five-game winning streak. He's been getting better pass protection than he did earlier in the season, tight end Rob Gronkowski appears to be at the top of his game and wide receiver Brandon LaFell has been getting better by the week. New England's ability to carve up defenses through the air is the primary reason the Patriots are averaging 31.2 points per game. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE COLTS PASS


Cleary, this is where the New England defense will be tested the most. Through nine games the Colts led the league in points per game (32.2) thanks primarily to an offense that led the league in passing yardage. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck is in the conversation when you're talking about the NFL MVP. Entering the Colts bye week, Luck led the league in passing yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns. One of his strengths is that he doesn't lock on to his top receivers, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Luck has completed passes to at least seven players in each of the team's nine games. Tight end Dwayne Allen has a team-high seven touchdown receptions. ADVANTAGE: COLTS

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SPECIAL TEAMS


The Colts have one of the best punter/placekicker combinations in the league in Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri. McAfee is averaging 46.6 yards per punt. More important is his net average of 43. 6 yards. The Colts are second in the NFL in yards allowed per punt return. Vinatieri is still making kicks. He's made each of his 20 field goal attempts this season, including seven from 40 yards and beyond. The Patriots have a pretty good kicking combo as well. Stephen Gostkowski has made 24 of his 25 field goal attempts. Eleven of those kicks have come from at least 40 yards. Ryan Allen is averaging 46.0 yards per punt (38.7 net) and has had one kick blocked. The Patriots are averaging a healthy 13.3 yards per punt return. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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OTHER FACTORS


Gillette Stadium has become a place opposing teams go to lose, and two of the Colts three losses this season have come on the road (Denver and Pittsburgh). But the Colts are a different animal at home, where they've lost just once. New England also is a different team away from Gillette Stadium. The team is just 2-2 on the road thus far. One thing working in the Patriots favor is the fact that after nine games Indianapolis ranked last in the NFL in red zone defense, and with the offense currently humming that could be a huge edge. Both sides are rested coming off a bye with two weeks to prepare and Bill Belichick gets the edge over just about anyone given extra time to game plan. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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