On Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in the city of New England, the host team the Patriots will be welcoming the Indianapolis Colts for a face off to obtain the AFC conference championship title.
New England will not resume practicing until Wednesday and the status of Patriots starting center Bryan Stork is unclear heading into Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Colts, reports the team’s website. Stork left the playoff win over the Ravens with a knee injury and was not spotted in the locker room afterward.
Furthermore, another uncertainty is Patriots starting cornerback Brandon Browner left the playoff win over the Ravens in the third quarter with a right knee issue, but he proclaimed afterward that he was “feeling great,” reports the team’s website. Browner did postgame interviews in the locker room, a sign his injury is not serious, the website said. Browner made three tackles before leaving. In nine regular-season games, he had 25 tackles, six pass breakups and an interception. source: cbspsorts.com
Believe or not, just one team is keeping New England from its sixth Super Bowl appearance in 14 seasons. The Colts are a much better squad now than the one that fell at home to New England, 42-20, in Week 11. Indianapolis proved it in last Sunday’s 24-13 road playoff win over Denver that was actually a more impressive overall performance than the one New England displayed during its 35-31 comeback victory over the visiting Baltimore Ravens.
Here are five keys that will determine whether New England, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will get the chance to win a fourth Lombardi Trophy together or the Colts will make their first Super Bowl appearance since 2009.
Patriots coaching staff vs. Colts coaching staff: The Patriots dusted off a double-pass play last used by Belichick in 2001 (!!!) that resulted in a 51-yard touchdown toss from Julian Edelman to fellow wide receiver Danny Amendola. But the brilliance of New England’s coaches goes well beyond that. Their ability to make in-game adjustments remains second to none.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck vs. Patriots pass defense: The comparisons between Luck and Denver quarterback Peyton Manning were a major storyline entering last Sunday’s playoff game. Here’s another one that applies to the AFC title game: Luck has struggled against Belichick’s defenses as much as Manning did while playing for the Colts earlier in his career. Luck suffered blowout losses against New England in each of the past three seasons.
Patriots running game vs. Colts run defense:
New England running back Jonas Gray was involved in the NFL’s wildest rags-to-riches-to-rags story of the 2014 campaign. Promoted from the practice squad at midseason, Gray barreled for 201 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts. Since arriving late to practice the week after the game, Gray has barely played since. He was inactive against Baltimore last Saturday after being listed as probable on New England’s injury report with an ankle ailment.
Patriots tight ends vs. Colts tight ends:
Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen became the first pair of tight ends in Colts history to each score eight touchdowns in the same season. Fleener has developed into the better receiver, but don’t sell Allen short in that category. Indianapolis also gets production out of a third tight end in scrappy Jack Doyle.
Brady vs. Colts defense and playoff ghosts:
Brady has two opponents in Sunday’s matchup. Tom Terrific wasn’t so in his past two AFC championship game appearances, both of which were Patriots losses. Brady, though, was at his best against Baltimore last week in a 367-yard passing performance that included three scoring throws and a touchdown scamper. As the Broncos did, expect the Colts to try to disrupt New England’s short passing game. source: foxsports.com
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Indianapolis Colts +6.5 53.5o
New England Patriots -6.5 53.5u
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