Saturday, January 11, 2014

Divisional round picks: Colts at Patriots

Publisher Nick St. Denis, associate editor Dan Begnoche and senior contributor Sean Donovan pick the New England Patriots' home playoff battle with the Indianapolis Colts.

Dan's take:
Despite the game-changing potential both quarterbacks carry, ailing wide receivers and an inability to start fast on both sidelines will likely make this a ground-and-pound battle, at least early on. Both teams will be looking to effectively manage the clock, create short third-down opportunities and keep the opposing offense on the sideline as much as possible, a task the Pats have been better at of late, particularly with the uptick in output from running back LeGarrette Blount. If New England can continue its dominance in the running game and render Colts sack machine Robert Mathis a non-factor, Brady should have no problem making the most of his limited passing opportunities.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Colts 17

Nick's take:
This game has Blount written all over it. The Saturday night forecast in Foxorough calls for rain and wind, so ball protection will be at a premium. And given Blount's recent success and Stevan Ridley's fumbling issues from early in the season, Blount should see a heavy workload here. On the other side, the Colts need Trent Richardson to come out of his shell, though Donald Brown has proven worthy of the lion's share of carries. Both teams struggle against the run, but New England's opportunistic secondary and Brady's acumen at home favors the Patriots.
Prediction: Patriots 26, Colts 20

Sean's take:
Andrew Luck's incredible comeback wouldn't have been possible without his top weapon T.Y. Hilton, who caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two scores. Per usual, Bill Belichick's defense will do everything it can to mitigate the opponent's most dangerous weapon. The problem for Indianapolis is that there isn't much behind Hilton, and though the Patriots' injuries will dampen their ability to slow down Donald Brown's rushing, New England will be able to out pace the upstart Colts on the scoreboard and advance to the conference championship.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Colts 20