A lot has changed since the Patriots and Colts last met on Nov. 16. Back then the Colts lead receiver was still Reggie Wayne, andAndrew Luck relied on the veteran when he needed it most.
That night Wayne got off to a hot start, catching three passes for 70 yards on Indy's second possession of the game, a drive that ended with an Adam Vinatieri field goal. At that pointBill Belichick switched things up a bit and took Brandon Browner off Wayne and assigned Darrelle Revis to the future Hall of Famer.
The New England Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, November 16, 2014.
And Wayne was barely heard from again. He finished with five catches for 91 yards. Meanwhile Revis' original assignment –T.Y. Hilton – was covered effectively by Kyle Arrington with some help over the top from Devin McCourty. Hilton finished with just three catches for 24 yards, one of his worst outings of the season.
But today Wayne has become little more than an afterthought in the Colts attack. A severe groin injury has limited his ability to run and he caught three or fewer passes in six of the eight games since. He was blanked last week in Denver and Luck only targeted him once all afternoon. It would appear the 36-year-old wideout is close to the end.
Given his lack of involvement in the offense it would be hard to imagine Wayne drawing Revis in man coverage once again. It would seem to be waste of Revis' ability to lock up with such a small part of Indy's attack. At the same time Hilton has really emerged as the true No. 1 threat for the Colts, and this time Revis may stick with him from wire to wire.
Hilton has seven 100-yard games this season including his wild card performance against Cincinnati. He finished the regular season with 82 catches for 1,345 yards (16.4-yards per catch) and seven touchdowns, and Revis has excelled at limited the No. 1 option for most teams.
At 5-10, 183 pounds, Hilton is too small and quick for Browner, who is also dealing with a knee injury that send him to the sidelines in last week's divisional round win over Baltimore. Revis has shown the ability to cover all types of receivers this season, and the guess here is that he'll start on Hilton.
One other target to consider is rookieDonte Moncrief. He was targeted just once in the first game and was open deep on the play, only to have Luck overthrow him on what could have been a touchdown. But the third-round pick out of Ole Miss has come on lately and finished a solid first year with 32 catches for 444 yards (13.9-yard average) and three touchdowns. He made just nine catches in the first seven games but recorded 23 in the last nine, then added five more and a touchdown in the postseason.
Arrington and/or Logan Ryan might be asked to deal with Moncrief, which could be an interesting matchup as well. But the marquee attraction will be Hilton and Revis, and that's one the Patriots have to feel pretty good about.