It takes ten yards to earn a first down. Ten yards to move the chain and extend the drive. Ten yards to run the clock, ten yards to be closer to a score, and ten yards suck the wind out of a stadium.
There are seven wide receivers who averaged 10 yards per target (YPT) over the course of the season (minimum 50 targets, 135 qualifiers). One of them is coming to Gillette this weekend.
1. Washington's DeSean Jackson, 12.3 YPT on 95 targets
2. Saints Kenny Stills, 11.2 YPT on 83 targets
3. Colts T.Y. Hilton, 10.3 YPT on 131 targets
4. Packers Randall Cobb, 10.1 YPT on 127 targets
5. Packers Jordy Nelson, 10.1 YPT on 151 targets
6. Giants Odell Beckham Jr., 10.0 YPT on 130 targets
7. Broncos Emmanuel Sanders, 10.0 YPT on 141 targets
For reference, here's a list of the Patriots rankings:
26. Rob Gronkowski, 8.6 YPT on 131 targets
46. Brandon LaFell, 8.0 YPT on 119 targets
71. Julian Edelman, 7.3 YPT on 134 targets
116. Shane Vereen, 5.8 YPT on 77 targets
If we move beyond the fact that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are averaging a first down every time they throw the ball to their top two receivers, we can see that the visiting T.Y. Hilton is one of the most efficient and productive receivers in the entire league. It's imperative that the Patriots use their resources to slow him down.
It's also important to note that he's not the only Colt that is towards the top of the rankings
3. T.Y. Hilton, 10.3 YPT on 131 targets
35. Coby Fleener, 8.4 YPT on 92 targets
50. Dwayne Allen, 7.9 YPT on 50 targets
95. Reggie Wayne, 6.7 YPT on 116 targets
113. Hakeem Nicks, 6.0 YPT on 68 targets
Fleener deserves a lot of attention for how productive he's been in that offense. While he doesn't draw the same coverage or impact the offense anywhere near the realm of Gronkowski's importance to the Patriots, his raw output isn't far behind.
Those are the two most dangerous players on the Colts offense, especially when it comes to match-ups, and the Patriots would be better off dedicating resources to these top receivers, instead of focusing on players (Wayne, Nicks) that rank in the bottom 30% of the league.
While Darrelle Revis doesn't have the skill set to truly match-up well on Hilton, this might be a game where they put him on Fleener, while Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan can defense Nicks and Wayne. The Patriots have a deep secondary to scheme themselves around the Colts weapons; it'll be worth noting how New England approaches the game.