Sometimes, the conversation about the game actually outweighs the game that is still yet to be played. The Week 6 showdown between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts is an example of such an occasion.
The two teams meet on Sunday Night Football for the first time since the Patriots demolished the Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship Playoffs en route to their 2015 Superbowl title, and many are expecting a similar result this Sunday.
The showdown this week is also the first time the two meet since the offseason “Deflategate” drama. The Colts were the team that initially brought it to the league’s attention that the footballs that New England quarterback Tom Brady were using might have been underinflated. Some investigating, press conferences, reports and court appearances later, Brady has been exonerated and is showing the league what a “vengeful” Brady looks like.
Brady is off to an impressive start, similar to the 2007 campaign that saw him pass for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns. In the first four games of that season, Brady threw for 1,118 yards and 13 touchdowns, while this season, he’s thrown for 1,387 and 11 touchdowns, winning each of their four games.
A big part of the Patriots early season success on offense has been Julian Edelman, and Brady is keying in on No. 1 more than ever. The shifty and exceptionally gritty wide receiver has been targeted 47 times in only four games. The Patriots have been the best in the league for several years now at using pick plays to free receivers like Edelman, and this season the wide out is reaping the benefits, catching 34 passes for 399 yards and 3 touchdowns, so far.
The two have been developing a chemistry for the past several years and a trip to Montana in the offseason has apparently helped cement the relationship. The two did some “rocky training” according to Edelman, and successfully avoided bears. “There’s bears everywhere out there,” Edelman told NESN reporters. “I was terrified the whole time. We had bear spray on the golf carts, because we went golfing a few times. It was an ongoing joke that if you were in the woods, it would be like, ‘Bring the bear spray!’ But yeah, they see bears all the time, there’s bear attacks all the time out there. It’s crazy.”
While the Patriots have started this season with aplomb, it has been a different story for the Indianapolis Colts. A team that was pegged to take the next step, the Colts have struggled through their first five games but have maintained a winning record by beating the lesser teams in the league. Andrew Luck, the up and coming Colts quarterback, has been injured for the last two weeks, but was significantly underperforming before his shoulder issue. Of all eligible quarterbacks, Luck’s QBR is 30.1, good for last in the league. Luck practiced with the team Friday, and could return this weekend, but it would be irresponsible to suggest he will be at his sharpest.
The efficiency stats do not look good for the Colts either. According to Football Outsiders, the Colts are the 22nd team in terms of efficiency, ranked 23 in offensive and defensive DVOA, a stat that measures efficiency based on how and when points and yards are accumulated and adjusted for the opponent. By comparison, New England is in the top 10 DVOA in offense, defense, and special teams.
The Patriots are favored by 10 according to Bovada, and the line has been moving in favor of the Patriots all week. Many are bullish on the Patriots chances this weekend and given the circumstances and the stats it is for good reason. Expect the Patriots to win handily this weekend.