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HC / GM Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots are on a league-leading seven game winning streak, and much of that success is thanks to rookie QB Mac Jones, his quick releases, and veteran-level decision making complimenting their 3rd ranked defense perfectly, but the question here will be whether they can stop the Colts from running the ball effectively.
Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz and HC Frank Reich know that the Patriots will no doubt attempt to neutralize RB Jonathan Taylor, so they must figure out how to take advantage of that unbalanced defense and use their passing game to make the Pats pay, this productive offense ranked third highest in points scored this season after averaging 28.5 points per game.
These two AFC rivals have met each other 81 prior times (including 5 postseason games), with the Indianapolis Colts winning 29 of those games and the New England Patriots winning 52 of the games.
If the Patriots expect to beat these Colts on Saturday, they best do something about running back Jonathan Taylor (see below), because he alone can beat you, not only on the ground with finesse and power, but also with soft hands that can catch the ball on the run .
The Patriots have the third-best defense in the league this season, but they do better against the pass (ranked 3rd) than they do against the run (19th) so Bill Belichick had best figure out a way to use the subpar run defense he has to stop the league-leading rusher in Taylor.
Right now the Patriots defense holds opposing rushers to just 115 yards per game, and Jonathan Taylor alone has averaged almost 104 yards on the ground per game by himself, so this could be a critical matchup depending on which side can step up and make the other pay.
The Colts’ defense is ranked 13th overall in the NFL but against the pass they are 12th best allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for an average of 230 yards per game, and they are ranked 18th in sacks delivered with 29 team sacks on the season.
This decent Indy defense will face a Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones who has been playing like a veteran lately, his completion rate of 70 percent a sign that he will not be easily intimidated by bull rushes and blitzes and tight coverage, especially with an RB like Taylor to bail him out.
The key to an Indianapolis win here will be to do what other teams have failed to do thus far this season, which is to get in the face of Jones and make him make some rookie mistakes and turnovers and hope that the Colts offense can take advantage of that extra time on the field.
Now in his third NFL season, New England running back Damien Harris has already surpassed his production from his first two pro seasons combined, gradually becoming an integral part of this Patriots offense as both a runner and an occasional pass catcher.
Harris was an Alabama star, and at 5’ 11” and 213 pounds he has the size and speed to make him tough to tackle, and this season he has carried the ball 164 times for 754 yards and 9 touchdowns, plus he has caught 13 passes for 84 yards and no touchdowns.
Watch for Harris to stand out against this 17th ranked Colts run defense, a big first half necessary from him in order to set up QB Mac Jones for the play-action fakes in the second half, a combination that makes them tough to defend against for a full game.
Now that the Titans Derrick Henry is out for the season, the Indianapolis Colts’ dual-threat back Jonathan Taylor is lighting the league up and fast becoming the type of offensive threat that can send defensive coordinators reeling.
Taylor is a 5’ 10” 226 pound former Wisconsin powerhouse who is tough to tackle and who can get yards after being hit, right now with 241 carries for a league-leading 1,348 yards and 16 touchdowns plus 36 catches for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season.
Taylor’s longest run of 83 yards is also best in the NFL this season, so watch for him to break a big one against this Patriots’ 19th ranked run defense because if Belichick can’t figure out how to neutralize him, he could be the key to a Colts victory on Saturday night.
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|Patriots vs Colts Information|
|What||New England Patriots vs Indianapolis Colts|
|Where||Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN|
|When||Saturday, December 18, 2021; 8:15 PM ET|
|How to watch||NFL Network|
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