The reigning AFC champions are on the upswing, having righted the ship with a 38-7 beatdown of the Miami Dolphins this past weekend following a concerning 1-2 start to the season.
Though they’re already heading in the right direction, the Patriots now get two more reasons to feel confident: the return of Julian Edelman after his four-game suspension, and an opponent they’ve owned in recent years.
With Edelman back, Tom Brady will once again have his most trusted receiver as part of his arsenal.
It’s been almost two full seasons – 31 games to be exact – since Brady and Edelman have shared the same field for a regular-season game, as the wide receiver missed all of last year with a torn ACL.
When he’s been at Brady’s disposal, Edelman has been a target vacuum and reliable safety valve in the middle of the field – something that has been missing in the offence this season as New England’s receivers have often struggled to create separation.
While Edelman will carve up defences from the slot, the Patriots should also start to have more of a vertical threat in Josh Gordon, whose time on the field figures to increase after getting his feet wet against Miami.
The physically-gifted wideout only saw 18 snaps this past weekend, but contributed with two third-down receptions to move the chains, along with a key block on a rushing score and a penalty drawn to afford New England a fresh set of downs.
However, based on the recent history between the Patriots and Colts, it’s not as if Bill Belichick’s side needed much more ammunition entering the match-up.
The ‘rivalry’ has been one-sided since the departure of Peyton Manning, with New England winning the past seven meetings – including two playoff showdowns – dating back to 2009.
And some of those clashes featured an Indianapolis team that was one of the best in the conference – a far cry from where the Colts currently stand.
Even with Andrew Luck back under centre, Indianapolis have looked middling on both sides of the ball. Luck has managed to move the ball with quick underneath throws, but has had no support from the running game, which ranks 29th in the league with 72.0 rushing yards per game.
While the Patriots are getting reinforcements, the Colts are expected to be without several key players on Thursday, including wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle, left tackle Anthony Castonzo and running back Marlon Mack.
CHANCE FOR REVENGE
As if Indianapolis needed any more motivation to beat New England, they may have a little extra juice to get revenge on Josh McDaniels.
The Patriots’ offensive coordinator was all but bound for the Colts’ head coaching job this past offseason before pulling out in the eleventh hour after agreeing to contract terms.
As such, Indianapolis had to scramble and settle for Frank Reich, who made the move from the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champions.
McDaniels’ decision was painful for the Colts, but it was made even worse by the fact that their rivals were behind it.
The players may not care as much as Indianapolis’ front office and ownership, but it does add another chapter in the feud between the two franchises, coming a little more than three years after Deflategate.
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