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Scouting the Matchups: Patriots will churn out the yards

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN

The Patriots picked up a shiny new toy in the offseason, and so far Dion Lewis has been an excellent fit in New England's backfield. Although the Patriots rank near the bottom of the NFL in rushing offense, Lewis leads the team in rushing attempts (36) and yards rushing (180). Although Lewis has displayed good power for his size (5-7, 195 pounds), teammate LeGarrette Blount does most of the dirty work between the tackles. Blount is often New England's "closer" when the Patriots run the ball near the goal line. The Colts are allowing an average of 112.0 yards per game on the ground and have surrendered 657 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in their last three games against the Patriots. Indy has improved in this area with rookie Henry Anderson and David Parry but the Patriots will still churn out the yards late.
Advantage: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE COLTS RUN

Frank Gore was willing to leave San Francisco after the team parted ways with head coach Jim Harbaugh in the offseason, and the Colts scooped up Gore in free agency. Indianapolis hasn't had much success running the football this season - the Colts are averaging 3.9 yards per carry - but Gore is the guy the Colts turn to when they do choose to run. He's rushed for 325 yards and three touchdowns on 76 attempts (for a solid 4.3-yards per carry). Quarterback Andrew Luck is second on the team in rushing yards (65). The New England defense hasn't been great against the run this season either, although it showed signs of improvement last week against an undermanned Dallas team. Still, the Patriots rank near the bottom of the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per attempt.
Advantage: COLTS

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS

New England quarterback Tom Brady has been operating with laser-like precision this season. Through four games Brady has completed 116 of 160 pass attempts for 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception. Brady has a unique target in tight end Rob Gronkowski (20 receptions for 375 yards and four TDs), and another reliable receiver in Julian Edelman (34 catches for 399 yards). The Colts haven't shown much of a pass rush this season, recording just six sacks in five games. No Indianapolis player has more than one sack this year. That lack of a pass rush has made things tough on the back end. Houston's QB tandem of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett passed for 362 yards against the Colts in Week 5 and often marched up and down the field as a result. Vontae Davis is a solid corner but his teammates Greg Toler has struggled. And no one can handle Gronkowski.
Advantage: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE COLTS PASS

Matt Hasselbeck has been the guy taking the snaps for Indianapolis in each of the past two games. With starting quarterback Andrew Luck sidelined with a shoulder injury, Hasselbeck guided the Colts to victories over the Jaguars (16-13 in overtime) and the Texans (27-20). Hasselbeck has completed 48 of 76 pass attempts for 495 yards and three touchdowns and hasn't been intercepted. Luck passed for five touchdowns but was intercepted seven times in the Colts first three games. The Colts have plenty of good receivers. That group includes T.Y. Hilton (27 receptions for 382 yards), Donte Moncrief (24-278), Coby Fleener (16-148) and Andre Johnson (13-128). The Patriots have 16 sacks and six interceptions this season but haven't faced a test like this since Week 1.
Advantage: COLTS

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SPECIAL TEAMS

Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee is one of the best in the game. He's averaging 48.0 yards per punt this season with a net average of 46.5 yards. He set franchise records for punts downed inside the 20-yard line (30) and net punting average (42.8) last season. The Colts have also excelled in kick coverage. Only one Indianapolis kickoff has been returned this season (for 0 yards) and the Colts are limiting teams to an impressive 3.3 yards per punt return. Adam Vinatieri missed his first two field goal attempts this year - one miss was from 29 yards - but is 5-for-5 since then. New England's Stephen Gostkowski is as reliable as they come and has made each of his 10 field goal tries this season, including a career-best 57-yarder last week in Dallas. The Patriots coverage has also been airtight while Danny Amendola has provided an occasional spark in the punt return game. This matchup is pretty even but Gostkowski's consistency earns the edge.
Advantage: PATRIOTS

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OTHER FACTORS

It's hard to believe Colts are entering this contest full of confidence considering their recent history against the Patriots. Indianapolis is 0-4 in the last four meetings between the teams and has been outscored 189-73 in those four games. That includes New England's 45-7 victory in last season's AFC Championship Game. Even if Luck is near 100 percent for this contest, it wouldn't change much. Luck has been intercepted 10 times during his last four performances against New England and has tossed only six TD passes during that span. Luck had one of the worst performances of his career in the AFC title game. He passed for 126 yards, no touchdowns and had a career-low passer rating of 23.0 in that loss. Plus there's that Deflategate thing motivating the Patriots, contrary to what they've been saying.
Advantage: PATRIOTS

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