Frankfurt, Germany — Guten Morgen aus dem Frankfurt Stadium, wo die Patriots am Sonntag gegen die Colts spielen werden. Translation: good morning from inside Frankfurt Stadium, where the Patriots will play the Colts on Sunday.
New England's roster is set for Sunday's tilt with Indianapolis. After ruling three players out en route to Germany, the Patriots game-day inactives are OT Trent Brown (ankle/personal), WR DeVante Parker (concussion), CB J.C. Jackson (personal), LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (hamstring), DB Alex Austin, DL Sam Roberts, and QB Will Grier (emergency QB).
Patriots fans can rejoice both home and abroad because rookie wide receiver Kayshon Boutte is officially active. Boutte will suit up for the first time in eight games when he made his NFL debut in the regular-season opener against the Eagles. Boutte struggled in his role as a boundary receiver in Week 1. Most notably, working the sideline where he failed to get two feet in bounds, essentially ending the game on a failed fourth down attempt.
However, Boutte's inability to make the game-day lineup wasn't solely due to his struggles in the opener. According to coaches, Boutte's practice habits with the mental aspects of the position needed to be more consistent. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters in Frankfurt that Boutte was "trending in the right direction" earlier this week. Those comments followed remarks the week before that it was the rookie's "best week" of practice.
The question for Boutte now is, will he have a role in the game plan, and if so, where will he play in the offense? As mentioned, Boutte had difficulty running prototypical "X" receiver routes along the sideline. In college, he played mainly as a Z/slot receiver in a similar role as Kendrick Bourne (IR) or JuJu Smith-Schuster.
With standout rookie Demario Douglas popping as a slot receiver, New England's depth there has created a logjam at the position. If the Patriots give Boutte an opportunity, it will hopefully be in his natural role. But with Parker inactive and last week's struggles for Jalen Reagor and Tyquan Thornton, Boutte's best chance for snaps might come on the outside.
Elsewhere on offense, the Patriots elevated offensive tackle Conor McDermott from the practice squad on Saturday. With the team down starting left tackle Trent Brown (ankle/personal), McDermott will likely start at left tackle for the second consecutive week. The veteran allowed three quarterback pressures in a spot-start against the Commanders, while quarterback Mac Jones was only under pressure on 21.7% of his drop-backs without being sacked (one sack negated by penalty).
McDermott will hopefully hold down the position for another week in Brown's absence against an Indy edge rush that hasn't produced at a high rate this season. However, the interior pressure could be a bigger concern with All-Pro DT DeForest Buckner collapsing the pocket up the middle. The Patriots projected starting offensive line is LT Conor McDermott, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Sidy Sow, and Mike Onwenu should remain at right tackle.
Moving over to the defense, the Patriots need to contain Colts offense shorthanded at cornerback and linebacker. New England left starting corner J.C. Jackson at home reportedly due to missing curfew on the Saturday night before last week's game against Washington.
Although second-year CB Jack Jones also played a reduced role, reportedly due to a similar off-field issue, Jones is officially active for Sunday's game in Frankfurt. The Patriots will rely on usual regulars Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, reserve corner Shaun Wade, and Jack Jones to defend the Colts through the air.
The Patriots run defense will also need to stop Colts running backs Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss without top run-stuffing LB Ja'Whau Bentley. Bently is sitting this game out due to a hamstring injury he suffered in Miami. In his spot, we'll likely see linebackers Jahlani Tavai and Mack Wilson. Although the quarterback is less of a running threat than Philly QB Jalen Hurts, the Colts offense mimics Philadelphia's option-heavy offense. Minshew can move around a bit, and the option elements can still put defenses in binds. The Colts rank sixth in rush DVOA on offense this season, making stopping the run a big key for the Patriots on Sunday.
The atmosphere inside Frankfurt Stadium should be tremendous for this one. The crowd is heavily pro-Patriots, with New England technically being the home team, while the stadium's architecture, with the seats covered by a canopy-like structure, holds in crowd noise. Europe has shown out for the Patriots this week. Hopefully, the team on the field can do the same.
The Patriots will kick off against the Colts in Frankfurt at 9:30 am EST on Sunday.