The hottest team in the NFL is heading to Indianapolis. The seven-game winner, the New England Patriots will face hosts Indianapolis Colts, who have won four of five with dynamic running back Jonathan Taylor in the lead. Two opportunistic defenses and two rushed attacks in the top 10 highlight a Saturday night showdown with massive playoff implications. After a year of hiatus from the playoffs, Bill Belichick and the Patriots could end Week 15 with their playoff ticket, while Frank Reich’s Colts look to hang on to the sixth seed in the photo of the AFC playoffs. Two teams playing their best football down the home stretch will be stranded in prime time on Saturday night.
Here are three things to watch out for when the Colts welcome the Patriots to the NFL Network:
- New QBs, new eras in the Pats-Colts rivalry. Once an everlasting AFC heavyweight clash, this Patriots-Colts clash will be the first without Tom Brady or Peyton Manning since Week 14, 1997, when the Drew Bledsoe Pats got the best of an Indy-led squad. by Jim Harbaugh. New eras are on the Colts and Patriots, with Carson Wentz in his debut season with Indianapolis and Mac Jones aiming to bring New England back to the playoffs while eventually earning the honors of AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jones has a chance in history on Saturday as he may become the first rookie quarterback to win seven road games since QB starts were first tracked in 1950, according to NFL Research. Leading the Pats to a 6-0 road record, Jones has shown he is up to the task in all weather conditions, whether it is attempting just three shots like he did in ‘a Week 13 win or throw for over 300 yards like he did in a Week 12 win. At Indy, Wentz’s offseason addition via trade was seen by many as a risky proposition, but he’s had a great season for the most part, with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions (third-best TD-INT ratio in the NFL). With four games to go, Wentz has already surpassed the number of wins, passing yards and touchdowns he had in his last, dismal season with the Eagles in 2020.
- Can the stingy Patriots defense stop Jonathan Taylor? The Colts RB lead the NFL in rushing yards (1,348), rushing touchdowns (16), scrum yards (1,684), scrum touchdowns (18) and Pro Bowl voting, punctuating NFL Ground Attack # 2. But how will Taylor fare against a strong Patriots defense led by Bill Belichick? It will be the 21stst Both Belichick has coached against a player with over 1,000 rushing yards going into a game and the Hoodie is an incredible 18-2 in such encounters, according to NFL Research. The Colts, the No.3 offense, will face the No.1 defense, which is armed with a host of individual defensive talents such as pass thrower Matt Judon (12.5 sacks) and cornerback JC Jackson ( more than seven interceptions of the AFC). Taylor has scored a touchdown in 10 straight games. He’s also run over 100 yards in seven games this year, with the Colts going 7-0 in those instances. How Taylor fares against Belichick’s defense might well tell the story in this one.
- Will the Colts D win a victory? The Patriots’ defense will rightly draw attention to this one, but the Colts led by Darius Leonard are not left out either. Indianapolis leads the NFL with 29 takeaways this season and is so far the only team to force a turnover every game. We must not forget the excellent play of former Patriots defensive back Kenny Moore II, who leads Indy with four interceptions and 11 defended passes. So far, the Colts are 2-0 against the rookie QBs this year. If they can shake up Jones and force the basically healthy Patriots into a sloppy game, a big win could be in store for Indy.