Colts-Patriots: Preview of NFL divisional round


Andrew Luck celebrates after one of his four second-half touchdowns against the Chiefs. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AFC Divisional Game Latest Line  Date/Time (ET) TV/Radio
Indianapolis Colts (12-5) at New England Patriots (12-4) New England -7 Sat., Jan. 11
8:15 p.m.
WUSA (Channel 9), WJZ (Channel 13), WTEM (980 AM)

Last meeting: Nov. 11, 2012, New England def. Indianapolis, 59-24

Team Comparison (via Associated Press)


Indianapolis


New England
24.4 Points 27.8
232.8 Pass Yds 255.4
108.9 Rush Yds 129.1
27 Takeaways 29

The Colts staged an improbable comeback last Saturday to top the Kansas City Chiefs, 45-44, after quarterback Andrew Luck threw four second-half touchdown passes and scored on a fumble recovery. Now they get Tom Brady and the AFC East-winning Patriots, who beat Luck’s Colts, 59-24, in their most recent meeting on Week 11 of the 2012 season.

The teams will meet in the playoffs for the fourth time in the past 11 years — but this time the Colts won’t have a quarterback named Peyton Manning.

“I don’t want to dwell too much on last year,” Luck said (via Associated Press). “They do a great job of forcing turnovers, getting to the quarterback. We know it’s going to be a dogfight.”

The Patriots are in the playoffs for the fifth season in a row and 11th time in the last 15 years. But the team hasn’t been the dominating force that it has been in the past, with quarterback Tom Brady finishing the regular season with only a 87.3 passer rating – his lowest in a full season since 2003.

New England has been plagued with injuries to essential positions, including the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who tore both his ACL and MCL in a game against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8. Gronkowski, who played only seven games this season after recovering from multiple surgeries on his forearm and back, underwent successful surgery on his knee Thursday.

The Patriots are also down to six healthy linebackers – three who have seen little action — and lost Brandon Spikes for the season last week, a tough blow.

“Everybody has to step up,” backup linebacker Dane Fletcher said (via Associated Press). “Everybody’s role kind of increases on defense, especially in the linebacker unit.”

The Colts are in the divisional round for the first time since losing the 2009 Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints. Besides Luck, who threw for 3,822 yards,23 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in the regular season, the Colts have an offensive weapon in second-year receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has stepped in admirably since Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in October. Hilton had 13 receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the victory against the Chiefs.

Indianapolis also signed former Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch on Monday since Darrius Heyward-Bey injured his hamstring last weekend.

“Having had some time spent there, we figured that the questions were going to come up ‘If you’re signing this guy who spent time in New England, is it just a coincidence or do you need the guy to help you win a football game?'” Colts Coach Chuck Pagano said (via Associated Press). “We think we got a heck of a football player.”

The winner plays either the San Diego Chargers or the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship on Jan. 19.

Click here for the complete playoff schedule.

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Kelyn Soong is a news aide and blogger and covers high school tennis for The Washington Post sports section.
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Kelyn Soong · January 10, 2014