INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (12-5)
at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Line: New England -7, Total: 52.5
After erasing a 28-point, second-half deficit to open the playoffs, the Colts hit the road on Saturday night to face the Patriots for the 11th straight season, including the fourth playoff meeting during this stretch.
Indy is riding high after its improbable 45-44 comeback win over the Chiefs last week, marking its fourth straight victory (SU and ATS). But it hasnít won in Foxboro since 2006, allowing 40.3 PPG during three straight losses there, including a 59-24 thrashing last season. Colts QB Andrew Luck threw for 334 yards and 2 TD that game, but also tossed three interceptions. Patriots QB Tom Brady threw for 331 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT that day, improving to 10-4 (2-1 in playoffs) with 247 passing YPG, 27 TD and 12 INT in his career in this series. This year, Indy is a strong 5-3 SU (4-3-1 ATS) on the road, but New England is a perfect 8-0 SU (6-2 ATS) at home. Last week's comeback bodes well for the Colts on Saturday, as NFL road underdogs after trailing in their previous game by 21+ points at half, against an opponent after scoring 25+ points in two straight contests, are 34-13 ATS (72%) since 1983. However, since becoming the head coach of the Patriots, Bill Belichick is 24-6 ATS (80%) after gaining 150 or less passing yards in the previous game, and 25-14 ATS (64%) as a home favorite of 3.5 to 7 points. The Indianapolis injury report is pretty bare, with only DE Fila Moala (knee) questionable, but New England has been ravaged by injuries all season, and may not have the services of four starters who are all considered questionable -- WR Aaron Dobson (foot), G Logan Mankins (ankle) and CBs Devin McCourty (concussion) and Alfonzo Dennard (knee).
Will the Patriots coast to a comfortable victory at home? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts closed out the regular season in style, combining for a 60% ATS record (68-45-7) over the final eight weeks, including 77% ATS (24-7) in Weeks 16 and 17. StatFox Brian was 8-1 ATS in Best Bets in the final two weeks, has a 67% ATS (31-15-3) mark since Week 7, and is 59% ATS (39-27-5) this season. StatFox Scott is 59% ATS (31-22-1) in Best Bets since Week 4, and is also a robust 63% (22-13) in NFL Totals since Week 9. StatFox Gary's 3-0 ATS mark in Week 17 gave him seven perfect weeks in Best Bets since Week 4, and is 70% ATS (15-7-2) in Best Bets since Week 10. The experts combined for a perfect 5-0 ATS record in NFL Totals during Wild Card weekend.
Indianapolis entered last week with just 14 turnovers committed all season, but coughed up the football four times in its victory last week. But the offense still managed to score 45 points with 536 total yards, including 488 from Luck (443 passing, 45 rushing) who threw 4 TD and recovered a fumble for a fifth touchdown. Luck really struggled on the road in his rookie season (70.1 passer rating, 11 TD, 13 INT), but this season, he has a strong 86.7 passer rating on the road with 11 TD and just 3 INT. That has helped his team score 24.0 PPG with 339 total YPG away from home. Since losing star WR Reggie Wayne to a season-ending knee injury, Luck has relied heavily on second-year pros WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Coby Fleener. He targeted the duo 25 times last week, resulting in 18 catches for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Hilton also had a huge day last season in Foxboro, finishing with six catches for 100 yards and two scores. Although the Colts were forced to abandon the running game to erase their large deficit last week, they still managed to rush for 100 yards on just 19 carries (5.3 YPC). During their four straight wins, the team has gained 117 YPG on 4.0 YPC. After rushing for 5.3 YPC during the regular season (3rd-best in NFL), RB Donald Brown gained 55 yards on 11 attempts last week. Defensively, the Colts were atrocious last Saturday, surrendering 44 points and 513 total yards. That is the fifth time the team has given up at least 33 points in a game this year, but they have also held five opponents to 10 points or less. Indy's defense has struggled both in defending the run (127 YPG on 4.5 YPC) and the pass (240 YPG on 7.0 YPA and 61% completions), but has helped itself out with 11 takeaways over the past six weeks. But the Patriots rarely turn the football over on their home field.
New England has committed just 10 giveaways at Gillette Field this season, but QB Tom Brady has thrown 13 interceptions over his past nine playoff games where he carries a 4-5 record. Overall in his playoff career though, Brady is a robust 14-7 with 5,377 passing yards (6.8 YPA), 41 TD and 21 INT. But in his three postseason meetings with Indy, he has posted pedestrian numbers of 204 passing YPG on 6.3 YPA, 3 TD and 2 INT. But despite the multitude of long-term injuries to the Patriots' offense this season, Brady has been able to lead his club to 27.7 PPG and 385 total YPG, including 30.4 PPG and 392 total YPG at home. He has completed multiple passes to 14 players, but his most reliable (and durable) target has been WR Julian Edelman who caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards and 6 TD this season. RB Shane Vereen has also been a valuable weapon with 635 total yards (79 per game) and 4 TD this season. New England is not just a pass-happy attack, as it has also run the football effectively this season with 129 rushing YPG on 4.4 YPC. RBs Stevan Ridley (773 rush yards, 4.3 YPC, 7 TD) and LeGarrette Blount (772 rush yards, 5.1 YPC, 7 TD) have both been effective, with Blount capping off his season with a herculean performance against the Bills in Week 17 when he rushed for 189 yards on 24 carries (7.9 YPC) and 2 TD, while adding another 145 yards on two kick returns. While the offense is in good shape, the defense has major questions. The Patriots only give up 21.1 PPG, but they allow 373 total YPG including 385 total YPG at home. Opponents have not only thrown for 239 YPG on 6.5 YPA, but they have run for 134 YPG on 4.5 YPC, numbers that spike to 147 rushing YPG on 4.9 YPC at Gillette Stadium. The defense has done a poor job on third downs (42%, 26th in NFL) and is average in red-zone defense (56%, 16th in league). However, the unit has been opportunistic this year by forcing multiple turnovers eight different times this season, including five times at home.