The Indianapolis Colts are on the road to take on the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the 2013-14 NFL playoffs.
The opening kickoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where the Patriots have traditionally been tough to beat in the divisional round, posting a 5-1 record, per Patriots.com.
Weather could be a factor, as noted by Catalina Gaitan in the Boston Globe:
The region is expected to get more than an inch of rain just in time for Saturday night’s game. Heavy showers should start by 1 p.m. [ET] and continue overnight. Highs will be in the unseasonably warm mid-50s throughout the day but will drop into the 40s before the game starts at 8:15 p.m.
The Patriots (12-4) earned a first-round bye with the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Unfortunately, the team wasn't able to get healthy during its time off considering inside linebacker Brandon Spikes was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, as reported by the team's website.
New England has been devastated by injuries all year long, but somehow, some way, Bill Belichick has managed to win games with the guys who have stayed healthy.
The Colts reached the divisional round thanks to one of the most remarkable come-from-behind victories in the history of the playoffs. Andrew Luck led his team to a 45-44 win with a furious 35-point second-half flurry of offense, overcoming a 28-point deficit in the process.
Andrew Luck leads the Colts to a 45-44 victory over the Chiefs after trailing by 28 points in an all-time classic! pic.twitter.com/fNXY7KUzgX— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 5, 2014
Both teams feature defensive weaknesses, meaning Luck and Tom Brady could potentially give fans a heck of an offensive show on Saturday night, Jan. 11.
Here's a look at when and where you can catch the action, along with injury reports, additional analysis and a final prediction.
When: Saturday, Jan. 11, at 8:15 p.m. ET
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Lines (via Covers)
- Over/Under: 51.5 points
- Spread: New England (-7)
Colts Injury Report (via Colts.com)
Patriots Injury Report (via Patriots.com)
|DID NOT PARTICIPATE|
|Aaron Dobson, WR (foot)|
|Kyle Arrington, CB (groin)|
|Alfonzo Dennard, CB (knee/shoulder)|
|Dane Fletcher, LB (groin)|
|Steve Gregory, S (finger/knee)|
|Devin McCourty, S (concussion)|
|Will Svitek, OT (ankle)|
|Kenbrell Thompkins, WR (hip)|
|Shane Vereen, RB (groin)|
|Danny Amendola, WR (groin)|
|Tom Brady, QB (right shoulder)|
Can New England Shut Down T.Y. Hilton?
T.Y Hilton and Luck have gotten into quite a nice rhythm for the past month. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has begun to spread out the field more with three-receiver sets and tight end Coby Fleener, and the results speak for themselves.
|Week 15: Houston Texans||8||78||9.8||0|
|Week 16: @ Kansas City Chiefs||5||52||10.4||0|
|Week 17: Jacksonville Jaguars||11||155||14.1||0|
|Wild Card Round: @ Kansas City Chiefs||13||224||17.2||2|
As you can see, if the current trend of accelerated production holds true in the upcoming contest, then Hilton will have one of the greatest games in NFL playoff history.
Head coach Chuck Pagano recently commented about his two budding stars: "Obviously, our quarterback has a great synergy and chemistry with him, and trust level that’s extremely high,” Pagano said, via Ben Strauss of The New York Times.
It's going to be interesting to see how Belichick defends against Hilton, who isn't a traditional No. 1 receiver type at 5'9" and 178 pounds. Cornerback Aqib Talib is easily New England's best cover corner, but he's better against big receivers who aren't as quick or fast as Indy's speedster.
Bleacher Report's Erik Frenz, writing for Boston.com, highlighted Talib's struggles against similar receivers:
He has done well against bigger receivers that play a physical game, but he was already exposed this year in matchups with similar receivers in the Eagles' DeSean Jackson and the Panthers' Steve Smith—one had Talib's number in the preseason, the other in the regular season.
Frenz also notes it will likely be cornerback Kyle Arrington who will draw Hilton's number most of the time, which could make for a compelling matchup. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Arrington No. 19 out of 110 qualified cornerbacks for the 2013 season.
If the Patriots can shut down Hilton, then Luck will have a hard time scoring enough points to keep up with Brady.
Anyone who has followed Luck since his days at Stanford knows you can never count him out. He's clearly one of the most promising young players the league has seen in the past decade, and his legend is just beginning to take shape.
However, there's another in this game whose legend has waxed bright for over a decade.
Who you got?
Brady's not quite ready to be overtaken by his next-generation opponent, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller points out: "I have one firm rule: Never pick against Tom Brady at home in the playoffs. So I'm not. New England's offense will do what Kansas City's couldn't—close this game out."
The Colts defense allowed Alex Smith and a Jamaal Charles-less Chiefs team to go off for 513 total yards, 30 first downs and five touchdowns in the Wild Card Round. Look for Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and LeGarrette Blount to all have big games against this porous unit.
Luck will find a way to keep this close, but in the end, Brady's bunch will win the day.
Patriots win, 31-27.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78