By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots will complete a post-bye, two-game road trip when they face the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. At 4-0, the Patriots are looking to remain among the six NFL teams that are still undefeated this season. If New England comes away with a victory, it will be the first time since 2007 that the team has won its first five games in a season.
The Colts hold a 3-2 record, putting them in first place in the AFC South by one-and-a-half games over the 1-3 Tennessee Titans. Last week in a Thursday night game, Indianapolis earned a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. The Colts have won three games in a row after getting off to an 0-2 start.
The all-time series dates back to 1970, when the NFL Baltimore Colts and the AFL Boston Patriots were both placed in the AFC East as a part of the AFL/NFL merger. The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 and were placed in AFC South in 2002 when the NFL realigned its divisions. The Colts trail the all-time series 28-46 in the regular season and 1-4 in the playoffs. The teams played twice last year with the Patriots sweeping both games — 42-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium in the regular season, and 45-7 at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game.
Including the playoffs, the Patriots have won six consecutive games over the Colts. The last Indianapolis victory came at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 15, 2009, when then-Colts quarterback Peyton Manning led his team to a 35-34 comeback victory after trailing 31-14 early in the 4th quarter.
Colts on Offense
Currently, the Indianapolis offense is a bit of an enigma. Andrew Luck is considered to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but he lost his first two starts before suffering a shoulder injury in a Week Three game against the Titans. He finished that game and pulled out a 35-33 victory, but he’s been sidelined ever since. Forty-year-old backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has played well in Luck’s absence, getting victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, so it’s unknown which player will ultimately face the Patriots. NFL analyst Mike Wells reported over the weekend there was only a 50-60 percent chance Luck will play against the Patriots, but Luck was reported to be a full participant in practice on Monday.
The rest of the offense is just as difficult to figure out. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is still a big-play threat, but #2 receiver Andre Johnson has only 13 catches this year. Running back Frank Gore is averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry, but he has fumbled twice inside the five-yard line this season. Also, the Indianapolis coaching staff seems wary of overusing Gore, so he shares carries with rookie running back Josh Robinson, who is averaging only 2.4 yards per carry. The Colts are currently ranked 23rd in the NFL in total offense.
Colts on Defense
The Indianapolis pass rush has been non-existent. Through five games, the team has made only six sacks, and no member of the defense has more than one. Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, a 10-year veteran, is having a solid season, but he has 30 more tackles than anyone else on the team, so he’s not getting enough help. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, a 13-year veteran, was expected to provide some experienced leadership on the team, but he’s still not 100 percent after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in September 2014. Overall, the Colts are giving up nearly 400 yards per game.
Colts Players to Watch
The most dangerous player on the Indianapolis offense is Hilton, who is averaging 14.1 yards per reception. However, he has yet to score a touchdown this season. His impact should be magnified if Luck is able to start against the Patriots. On defense, safety Mike Adams already has three interceptions, including a highlight catch in the end zone in Week Two that helped prevent a New York Jets touchdown.
In Week Five, the New England offense scored 30 points against a Dallas Cowboys team that has far more weapons on defense than Indianapolis, so it’s tough to see how the Colts will be able to slow down the Patriots. Even if Luck plays, his career record against the Patriots is 0-4, so Indianapolis will need to play its best game of the season if it wants a chance to beat New England.
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.