The Colts are a gritty bunch, as evidenced by last week's miracle comeback against the Chiefs. But they're also a pretty talented group with playmakers capable of taking over a game. On offense, Andrew Luck caught fire in the second half by basically using two players - T.Y. Hilton and Donald Brown - to get the job done. All three had huge games, and tight end Coby Fleener also made some key plays during the comeback.
On defense things were looking pretty bleak for Indy until Robert Mathis stormed in and strip sacked Alex Smith, changing the game's momentum and paving the way for the comeback. Mathis led the NFL in sacks this season with 19.5, and he'll be a key to the Patriots offensive game plan.
So, Indy has some options when it comes to guys who can impact a game. Our Samsonite Make Your Case question this week asks which Colt will be most important for the Patriots to contain?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Rarely do we see the Patriots lose, especially a big games such as this, because the other team's offense simply dominates the game. Usually when Tom Brady and New England are upset, it has to do with playmakers on the other side of the ball.
When you're looking at the Colts defense it really all starts and ends with Robert Mathis. The edge playmaker may win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award after leading the league with 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles. He moves around the front and puts pressure on an offensive line as much as he does opposing quarterbacks. He had as strip sack last week that helped energize the Indy comeback.
If the Colts are going to pull off the road upset, they'll obviously need some plays from Luck and the offense. But that will have to come in conjunction with a defensive effort that makes Brady uncomfortable, forces him into mistakes and derails the offense.
Whether it's the Giants, Jets or Ravens, history has shown us that Patriots upsets are defined by the opponents' defensive front. Mathis is a scary man who certainly defines the Colts defensive front and his ability to get after the quarterback and force the ball free is the biggest concern heading into Saturday night's main event.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Luck is quite simply the best young quarterback in the game today and he needs to be the focal point of the Patriots defensive game plan. The Patriots can't let Luck get comfortable in the pocket and they also need to prevent him from running around to make plays, which he can do quite effectively.
The Colts don't have a lot of top-flight playmakers on offense other than Luck, so keeping tabs on him should allow the Patriots to seize control of the game. But if they allow Luck to get off to a quick start, get in a rhythm on the road and start putting points on the board, he will be difficult to stop.
It's not overly fancy or out of the box, but if the Patriots want to advance they need to make sure Luck doesn't catch fire.
--PP* *Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.