Gillette Stadium – Sunday 18th January 23.40 live on Sky Sports 1
The AFC Championship Game is another repeat of one we have seen in a prime time spot earlier this season, but this one won’t be taking place at the home of the Indianapolis Colts. This time it is the New England Patriots who will be hosting the Colts in Foxboro and there will be plenty of headlines written about Andrew Luck facing another sure-fire Hall of Fame Quarter Back in Tom Brady after last weekend.
With Brady and Peyton Manning dominating on the AFC side of the NFL for a number of years, Andrew Luck could be in a rare position of beating both in consecutive weeks on the road as he looks for a ‘passing of the torch’ moment. Getting to the Super Bowl would also vindicate Jim Irsay’s decision to draft Luck and allow Manning to move on.
Luck had an effective game against the Denver Broncos last week but the stars of the show were the Defence who held the Broncos to 13 points. Peyton Manning was said to be suffering with a severe enough injury to make me wonder whether that was a real factor in this Defensive performance put forward by the Colts, especially as they had not only lost, but been blown out by a number of the better teams they have faced.
That includes a huge home loss to the New England Patriots, but Luck might feel better with the emergence of Dan Herron who has provided a running game to complement the passing. Trent Richardson is officially a bust in Indianapolis having been a healthy scratch last week, but Herron has proved the Colts can establish the run without him and he is also an effective Receiver coming out of the backfield.
New England’s Defence has played the run well for the most part this season and they have a player like Jamie Collins who seems to make plays all over the field from his position at Linebacker. Darrelle Revis must have been running ‘Revis Island’ on a minimum staff last week as he could not handle the Baltimore Receivers, but the Corner Back is better than he showed and it might be difficult for Indianapolis to consistently move the chains.
The Patriots should get a better pass rush than the demoralised Denver Broncos managed, while I do think it would be foolish to ignore the fact the Colts only scored 24 points. Luck also turned the ball over twice in that game and these are areas where New England will look to thrive this weekend.
Last week the Colts also looked to dare Peyton Manning to throw the ball, but that might have been down to the fact that they were not convinced he was 100% healthy and that isn’t the case this week. Daring Tom Brady to do that will give Indianapolis matchup problems against Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and that will open up the Colts to the New England ground attack which hurt them so badly when the teams met earlier this season.
Vontae Davis can take away one of the Receivers New England will be running, but this is an Offense that found the adjustments to beat Baltimore and I don’t think the Colts Defence is as good as it showed.
Jonas Gray may not be the featured Running Back in this one, but his 200 rushing yards in the first game between these teams has to be a concern for Indianapolis. LeGarrette Blount is more of a power runner than Gray, but he could take advantage of running lanes that may open up if Brady shows he has a lot more in the tank than Manning had last weekend.
I think the Patriots are the right side in this one and I am surprised that they are actually favoured by a full Field Goal less than Denver went off against Indianapolis last weekend. Even the opening line that the Broncos had was more than what the Patriots have been given and I do think too much stock has been put into the Colts win last weekend. Andrew Luck played well in Denver, but also made some mistakes, and playing outdoors is going to be tough for him, especially if it remains cold in the north east of the United States.
New England have also blasted Indianapolis in their 3 games since Andrew Luck was drafted by the Colts and all of those wins have come by at least 21 points including in the Play Offs here last season. Tom Brady will have heard all the talk about Luck after his win over Peyton Manning’s Denver and that should inspire a typically big performance from the Quarter Back in this spot.
The Indianapolis Colts Defence looked better thanks to the injury Manning played through and I also think Luck is still good for a couple of mistakes against the best teams. I also expect Darrelle Revis to have a bounce back game at Corner Back and perhaps help himself to a key Interception at some point.
There are some trends that really favour Indianapolis, but I think New England are the better team and can cover this number thanks to a couple of adjustments made by Bill Belichick at half time. The Patriots have failed to cover in their last 5 Conference Championship Games, but this number remains too low as far as I am concerned and the Patriots should book their place in Arizona in two weeks time.
PICK: New England Patriots – 6.5 Points at 1.96
Price correct at the time of writing.
Join Eastbridge now for huge liquidity at competitive prices.