WEEK 15 · Sat 12/18 · 8:15 PM EST
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots return from the Bye Week with a nationally-televised Saturday night football game against the Indianapolis Colts from Lucas Oil Stadium. It will be the Patriots first Saturday game since beating Buffalo, 24-17, on Dec. 21, 2019. The Patriots are 8-0 in Saturday games since 2000.
The Patriots return to the field on a seven-game winning streak and own an AFC-leading 9-4 record after overcoming a 2-4 start to the season to secure their 35th winning season overall, their 24th winning season in the 28 years of ownership under Robert Kraft and the 20th winning season in the 22 seasons under head coach Bill Belichick.
SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS
By Paul Perillo
Both teams want to run the ball and that should make for a physical showdown on Saturday night in Indy.
When the Patriots run - Edge: Patriots
It's no secret how the Patriots want to play on offense as the running game has been the secret to the team's seven-game winning streak. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have formed a potent duo in the backfield, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has leaned heavily on the guys up front to pave the way. Harris had to leave the Week 13 win over the Bills with a hamstring injury and his status for Saturday is uncertain. Stevenson took over the lead role and punished Buffalo with some tough runs between the tackles. Look for that to continue against a Colts defense that is just average when it comes to stopping the run. DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart line up inside and protect linebackers Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin, but the Colts still rank 16th in the league by allowing an average of 111.8 yards per game and 25th with 4.5 yards per carry. Those are numbers that should encourage the Patriots to continue with their physical approach in an effort to wear down the Colts middle. While the 40-plus carries New England racked up in Buffalo aren't likely to be repeated, expect the production to continue even if Harris isn't able to go.
When the Patriots pass - Edge: Colts
Okereke said earlier in the week that it's the Colts intention to put everything on Mac Jones' plate to see how the rookie responds. If that's the case then the Patriots could struggle because Indy's secondary has been solid, especially when it comes to taking the ball away. The Colts rank 12th in the league, allowing an average of 230.2 yards per game through the air, and the group has 15 interceptions on the season. While the front seven doesn't have one dominant performer, the Colts have piled up 29 sacks, led by Buckner's 5.5, and the pressure has led to a lot of turnovers. Indy leads the league with 29 takeaways including 14 fumble recoveries. So, protecting the ball will be vital for Jones and the rest of the offense. Prior to the Monday night win in Buffalo that saw him attempt just three passes, Jones had been using Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers effectively in recent weeks. Bourne's uptick led to some big plays, and his five receiving touchdowns trail only tight end Hunter Henry, who has seven. Jones will need to take care of the ball and not allow the Colts defense to dictate the game.
When the Colts run - Edge: Colts
When it comes to running the football, few teams do it better than Indianapolis, and that's largely due to its MVP candidate Jonathan Taylor. Taylor leads the NFL in rushing with 1,348 yards and averages a whopping 5.6 yards per carry despite being the focal point of every opponent's defensive game plan. He also has 16 rushing touchdowns this season, so it's no secret what the Patriots need to stop. That's been much more difficult to do on the field, however, as Indy features a physical offensive line that loves to open holes for its lead back. Left guard Quenton Nelson is considered the best in the business, and center Ryan Kelly isn't too bad either. Kelly missed the Colts Week 13 game but should be ready to return. The Colts average 151.7 yards per game on the ground, which is second in the league, and is No. 1 with 5.2 yards per carry. Taylor is adept at both picking up the tough yardage between the tackles as well as hitting the home run ball. He has 12 rushes of greater than 20 yards on the season including plays of 83, 78, 62 and 40 yards. That means the Patriots front will need to continue its solid play of late. Davon Godchaux is coming off his best game as a Patriot when the recorded 10 tackles in the Monday night win over Buffalo. Linebackers Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Ja'Whaun Bentley will need to be disciplined when they attack to prevent creating cutback lanes for Taylor to exploit. Getting multiple helmets around Taylor will be the key.
When the Colts pass - Edge: Patriots
The Colts passing game has had its moments under Carson Wentz this season as well. Wentz has protected the ball well and generally augmented Taylor's ground production effectively. Wentz has 22 touchdowns against just five interceptions, but still the Colts passing game isn't as dangerous as some others around the league. That's mostly due to a lack of dynamic weapons. T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman and Zach Pascal see the majority of passes with Pittman (67 catches, 882 yards and five TDs) leading the way. Hilton recently returned to the lineup and has provided a jolt the last few weeks, but overall this is not a group that should scare anyone. Tight ends Jack Doyle and Mo Allie-Cox are capable, and Wentz also uses both backs Taylor and Nyheim Hines as receivers often. The Patriots secondary has been even stingier than Indy's with 19 picks and ranks third in the league by allowing an average of 195.5 yards per game. This will be a challenge for Wentz to avoid the mistakes that New England has feasted on during the seven-game winning streak, but if he can Indy will have opportunities to move the ball.
Special Teams - Edge: Patriots
Michael Badgley replaced the injured Rodrigo Blankenship earlier in the season and solidified the Colts kicking situation. Badgley has made all 32 PATs and 11 of 12 field goals after Blankenship cost the Colts a win in Baltimore with a pair of late misses. But as solid as Badgley has been the Patriots Nick Folk has been even better. Folk has been the difference in several games for the Patriots and is 33 of 36 in field goals. He was perfect under incredibly difficult conditions in Buffalo and now he gets to work indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium. That should allow him to maintain his season-long excellence. The Patriots also have gotten solid work from punt returner Gunner Olszewski, who is averaging 12.5 yards per return. The Colts counter with Hines on punts and Isaiah Rodgers and Ashton Dulin on kicks. But other than a 72-yard kickoff return by Rodgers late in a loss to the Bucs, Indy hasn't gotten much of a boost out of its return game. Look for the Patriots to continue their excellence on special teams as the stakes get higher coming down the stretch.
The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts will meet for the first time since Oct. 4, 2018, when New England captured a 38-24 victory at Gillette Stadium in a Thursday Night Football game. The Patriots have won the last eight games against the Colts, including six regular season games and two postseason games.
Both teams are coming off their Bye Weeks. It is the third matchup of the 2021 season with both teams coming off a Bye. Washington and Tam- pa Bay met in Week 10 and Minnesota and Dallas met in Week 8 coming off Byes.
The two teams share a long rivalry, as the Patriots and the Baltimore/ Indianapolis Colts played twice each year from 1970 to 2001 as members of the AFC East, with the exception of the 1982 strike season.
Since realignment in 2002 when the Colts moved to the AFC South, the teams played in the regular season in every year for 10 straight seasons from 2003 through 2012 with New England holding 6-4 edge in those games. While they did not play in the 2013 regular season, they did face each other in the postseason with the Patriots claiming a 43-22 Divisional Playoff win at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 11, 2014. The rivalry was rekindled with two meetings in 2014, a regular season game at Indianapolis and the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, both of which were won by New England. Then the clubs met again in 2015 with New England taking a Sunday Night Football victory at Indianapolis.
Overall, this week's game will be the 82nd meeting between the two teams. The Patriots lead the series with a 48-28 record in the regular sea- son and a 4-1 record in the postseason. New England holds an overall record of 22-16 when playing on the road against the Colts, including a 2-2 record at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Patriots own a 4-1 record overall against Indianapolis in the post- season, including a 4-0 record in playoff games played in New England. Three of the five postseason contests were in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots are 2-1 in those contests.
The clubs have clashed in the playoffs following the 2003, 04, 06, 13 and 14 seasons. The Patriots beat the Colts in the 2003 AFC Champion- ship Game, 24-14, at Gillette Stadium, won 20-3 at Gillette Stadium in a 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff, lost in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, 38-34, at Indianapolis, won in the AFC Divisional meeting 43-22 at Gillette Stadium and took a 45-7 decision in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
NEW ENGLAND 51, INDIANAPOLIS 29
Record in New England: 30-12 (Incl. 4-0 in playoffs)
- Record in Foxborough: 30-11 (4-0)
- Record in Boston: 0-1
Road Record: 22-17 (Incl. 0-1 in playoffs)
- Record in Indianapolis: 16-9 (0-1)
- Record in Baltimore: 6-8
Largest Margin of Victory: 39 points (10/06/74)
Largest Margin of Defeat: 31 points (11/26/72)
Longest Winning Streak: 8 (2010-present)
Longest Losing Streak: 3 (1970-71, 2005-07)
TALE OF THE TAPE
|2021 REGULAR SEASON||NEW ENGLAND||INDIANAPOLIS|
|Total Yards Gained||4,505||4,785|
|Total Offense (Rank)||346.5 (18)||368.1 (11)|
|Rush Offense||123.5 (9)||151.7 (2)|
|Pass Offense||223.0 (18)||216.4 (21)|
|Points Per Game||26.9 (10)||28.5 (3)|
|Total Yards Allowed||4,030||4,447|
|Total Defense (Rank)||310.0 (3)||342.1 (13)|
|Rush Defense||114.5 (19)||111.8 (17)|
|Pass Defense||195.5 (3)||230.2 (12)|
|Points Allowed/Game||15.3 (1)||21.8 (9)|
|Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost||24/204||22/160|
|Total Touchdowns Scored||36||44|
|Turnover Differential||+10 (2)||+13 (1)|
PATRIOTS-COLTS QUICK HITS
- The Patriots and Colts both passed the 1990s San Francisco 49ers for the all-time best wins mark for a decade in NFL history. New England had 126 wins from 2000-09, while Indianapolis had 124 wins over that span. San Francisco had 122 wins in the 1990s.
- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is 16-6 against the Colts as head coach of the Patriots and 18-8 against Indianapolis as a head coach overall.
- The Patriots have scored over 30 points in the last nine games against the Colts, averaging 39.7 points per game during that period.
- Special Teams Coordinator Bubba Ventrone
- DE Henry Anderson (2015-17)
- DT Carl Davis (2019)
- DT Lawrence Guy (2012-13)
- QB Brian Hoyer (2019)
PATRIOTS AIMING FOR 10-WIN SEASON FOR 27TH TIME IN TEAM HISTORY
The Patriots enter this week's game with a 9-4 record and will be aiming for their 27th 10-win season. Since the 1970 merger, the Patriots, Steelers and Cowboys are tied with 26 10-win seasons.
PATRIOTS LOOK TO SCORE 30 OR MORE POINTS TO BREAK NFL RECORD
The Patriots have scored at least 30 points in nine straight games against the Colts, including the postseason, to tie an NFL record for the most consecutive games scoring 30 points against an opponent. Kansas City also accomplished the feat in nine straight games from 1964 through 1968 against the Denver Broncos.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR...
- The Patriots enter this week's game with a 9-4 record and will be aiming for their 27th 10-win season. Since the 1970 merger, the Patriots, Steelers and Cowboys are tied with 26 10-win seasons.
- The Patriots will look to improve to a 7-0 road record. The Patriots have finished undefeated on the road twice in franchise history (2007 and 2016). The Patriots have the best road record since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 with a 138-84 (.622) record.
- The Patriots will look to improve to an 8-1 record in the conference with a win against Indianapolis.
- The Patriots rushed for 222 yards against Buffalo in the last game and have a chance to record back-to-back 200-yard rushing games for the first time since 2012 when the team rushed for 247 and 251 yards in back-to-back weeks against the Bills (9/30) and the Broncos (10/7).
- The Patriots are second in the NFL to Dallas (20) with 19 interceptions in 2021. In 2020, the Patriots tied for the NFL lead with Miami, New Orleans and Pittsburgh with 18 interceptions. The 2019 Patriots led the NFL with 25 interceptions. Two teams have led the NFL in interceptions in three or more consecutive seasons: Kansas City (5 straight – 1966-70) and the New York Giants (3 straight – 1937-39). Overall, the Patriots have led the NFL in interceptions four times (2003, 2010, 2019 and 2020).
- The Patriots have returned three interceptions for a touchdown this season and need one more to match the four by Dallas, who leads the NFL. The Patriots have returned at least four picks for a touchdown in a season four times with four in 1997 and 2010, and five in 2003 and 2001.
- The Patriots defense enters this week allowing just 15.4 points per game, first in the NFL. Since 2001, the Patriots have recorded 13 seasons of 20.0 points allowed or fewer, tied for the second-most in the NFL during that span.
- The Patriots have scored at least 30 points in nine straight games against the Colts, including the postseason, to tie an NFL record for the most consecutive games scoring 30 points against an opponent. Kansas City also accomplished the feat in nine straight games from 1964 through 1968 against the Denver Broncos.
- The Patriots have been successful on three 2-point plays in 2021. The Patriots need one more 2-point play to tie the franchise record of four set in 1996 and 1960.
TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by The NFL Network and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Burkhardt will handle play-by-play duties with Greg Olsen as the color analysts. Pam Oliver and Kristina Pink will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Pete Macheska and directed by Artie Kempner.
NATIONAL RADIO: Saturday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Westwood One. Bill Rosinski will call the game with Mike Golic providing analysis.
SATELLITE RADIO: SiriusXM App: 821 (NE), 813 (IND) | SiriusXM: 226 (NE), 225 (IND)
LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.
For information on how to stream the game please visit our Ways to Watch guide.