Posted: Monday November 7, 2005 3:56PM; Updated: Monday November 14, 2005 11:31AM
Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi had seven tackles in a win over Buffalo last week.
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Part of the reason New England is passing so much is the problems in its running game, which ranks 24th in the NFL. Dillon has had ankle problems and is averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry. And Dillon is running behind a line with two rookies -- LT Kaczur and LoganMankins.
New England's defense has also suffered statistically because of injuries. The Colts have to be pleased Rodney Harrison is out for the season, because the fiery safety has tortured them the last two seasons. But the Pats will have linebacker TedyBruschi in the middle. Bruschi won AFC Player of the Week honors after New England beat Buffalo 21-16 last week -- a somewhat suspect award considering the Bills' Willis McGahee ran for 136 yards. Bruschi was active against Buffalo, but overall the Patriots defenders looked out of place and missed more tackles than they usually do. If the defense doesn't get its act together, the Colts' James will have a big night.
In 12 games vs. New England with Manning at quarterback, the Colts have turned the ball over 34 times, compared to 11 turnovers for the Patriots. New England has won 10 of those games. Tony Dungy stresses taking care of the ball, but the Pats' defense is great at making Manning uncomfortable and forcing mistakes.
Forget the Colts' 7-0 record. As many people have pointed out, they haven't beaten anyone yet. Any defense that gets a heavy dose of Ravens, Browns, Titans, 49ers and Texans is going to look like the '85 Bears. If both teams were at 100 percent, I think the Patriots would be the three-point favorite since the game is at Foxboro. As bad as the Patriots' injuries are, you have to think Belichick is as confident as he usually is. He knows what the Colts are going to run and how to stop it.
But even with the Patriots' coaching edge, I still can't pick them. I don't think New England can stuff the run as well as it did in last year's playoffs, and I think the Pats will desperately miss Harrison's knack for making big plays. Once Indy starts picking up some first downs on the ground, Manning will find his rhythm and look like a different QB against Belichick. I hate to pick against New England in a close game, but it's the Colts' time. When they meet in the playoffs in 2006 ... that's another story.