Sunday’s Patriots/Colts game has been flexed to 4:25pm, a sign that these are not your 2011 Colts. Although there is a lot going on in the New England sports scene these days, Bostonians will take a break from debating whether the Red Sox should go after Josh Hamilton or worrying about when Rondo will return, and all eyes will be on Foxboro this Sunday. Five things to watch:
1) Brady vs. Luck. Mr. Miyagi vs. Daniel-san. Zach Morris vs. Scott Erickson. There’s no question Andrew Luck is the future of the NFL but Tom Brady is still it’s present. Look for Luck to have a great game against the Patriots abysmal secondary (see point #2), a group of players who let Ryan Fitzpatrick throw for 337 yards last week (and 350 during the earlier meeting this year), nearly 100 yards more than he had thrown against any other opponent this season. While their passing yardage allowed is middle of the pack, the Colts, however, have picked off opposing quarterbacks the fewest times (4 INT) of any team this season which bodes well for Tom, particularly with Dwight Freeney not playing at the level he has in previous years (see point #3).
2) AqibTalib makes his debut. The Patriots have a mixed bag of results when picking up players with “history.” When it works they get Cory Dillon and a Super Bowl ring. When it doesn’t, everyone has to deal with Ochocinco’s twitter feed. Talib’s early press encounters make him sound like he’s on board with the Patriot Way, but the real question is whether he can bring some much needed improvement to the Patriot’s secondary. The other big issue with the Patriots defense last week was their inability to finish tackles. Hopefully they can reverse that problem this week before it becomes a trend.
3) O-line still in transition. Mankins and Connolly left the game last week with injuries and haven’t practiced this week, leaving a lot of questions about what the offensive line will be able to do on Sunday. Despite Freeney not playing as well in 2012, he and Robert Mathis are not a threat to take lightly. We all know that a flustered Tom Brady is a recipe for disaster.
4) The Chuck Pagano factor. The Colts are a team with a mantra (Chuckstrong), much like the 2011 Patriots were playing for the memory of Myra Kraft. Football teams can accomplish historic things when they can rally around a goal or an inspiration.
5) Adam Vinatieri. Still painful to see him in a Colts uniform after all these years. You know he never would have missed that last second field goal against the Ravens. Here’s hoping the game doesn’t go into overtime.