Aside from the Revenge Game and wishing for the Colts to get embarrassed on national television, the Patriots still have to beat the Indianapolis Colts. With the Colts pretty much a shoo-in as the AFC South division winner, a win would give the Patriots another tie breaker against a "top" AFC foe. As much hype is going into this game, the Patriots need to stay focused on executing their assignments and avoid trying to do too much.
Spread Out the Defense, Stay Patient: While it's tempting to run the ball with LeGarrette Blount since it's worked in the past, the Colts run defense has gotten better this season. The additions of David Parry, Kendall Langford, and Henry Anderson have improved the Colts defensive front. Running the ball won't be as easy, and Blount is more likely to play more of a closer role. There are weaknesses in the Colts coverages at cornerback and inside linebacker. Vontae Davis is a top CB, but he can only cover 1 guy. That means opportunities for Julian Edelman, Keshawn Martin, and Danny Amendola, and Dion Lewis against underneath coverage. The Patriots should continue to steadily march down the field and wait for opportunities to take shots with Rob Gronkowski up the seam. The Colts are built to handle vertical passing, so the Patriots should be able to pick apart off-man coverages and march down the field. The key is to stay patient when doing so.
Counter 2 TE Personnel with Big Nickel: In order to stay flexible against both the run and the pass, the Patriots will likely employ a big nickel package with Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, and Patrick Chung on the field to combat the Colts 2 TE offense. Patrick Chung essentially operates as an extra linebacker in the box even though he's listed as a safety. The key for New England is being able to force long 2nd and 3rd downs to turn their pass rush loose. For Chung, that means being able to fill in holes in the run game as well as playing man coverage against the Colts tight ends.
Take Away the Deep Shots: The Colts aren't a very good team when it comes to marching down the field and taking a 10-play, 5-minute drive. The Colts are very reliant on the big play, especially in the passing game. That means the Patriots must be able to disrupt the timing of those routes to T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. I suspect the Patriots will put their best CB on an island with old Andre Johnson and move their coverages towards Moncrief and Hilton. I expect the Patriots to double Moncrief on the outside with either Brown or Coleman with McCourty over the top and play Cover 1 with the single high safety shaded towards Hilton's side of the field to prevent the big play.
Catch the Arm Punts: At least 5 times a game, Andrew Luck will throw a ball that can be intercepted. Interceptions are game-changers for the Patriots and those turnovers have been the reason why the Patriots stomp the Colts every year. If the Patriots can get an early lead, that will cause Luck to take more chances and make more high-risk throws. That plays right into what the Patriots want him to do, especially when dealing with a turnover prone QB. I believe that Luck will throw at least 3 interceptions in the game.
For a score prediction, I'm going with the Patriots 45, Colts 21. The Patriots offense scuffled a bit early when the Cowboys unveiled a new coverage scheme (3-2-6 Press-Man) before the Patriots adjusted. The Colts simply lack the personnel to execute as well as Dallas did and Tom Brady has too many easy mismatches to work with inside the numbers. I'm expecting big games from Edelman and Lewis along with Amendola making solid contributions himself if the Patriots would run their
pick rub routes more subtly. The game will be close at the half, but the Patriots will pull off the Halftime double score and Luck will throw 3 second half interceptions.