Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

NFL divisional playoff preview: Colts, Luck setting sights on toppling Patriots, Brady (5 items)

By Mitch Kunzler, For the Deseret News

Jan. 11, 2014

The second playoff game this weekend will be on Saturday evening between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. While Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is considered among the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is considered by many to be the most promising young quarterback in the NFL.

Coming off a comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week, Luck hopes to lead the Colts to yet another victory.

To get a good idea of what type of action will take place on Saturday, it is important to look at the type of season each team has had and things to watch for in the matchup.

You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at @MitchKunzler.

1 of 5. Game information

When: Saturday, Jan. 11, 6:15 p.m. MST

Where: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

TV coverage: CBS


2 of 5. The Colts' journey

The Indianapolis Colts struggled to find their identity this season as the way they played shifted back and forth from week to week. The Colts have proven that they are fully capable of beating any team in the NFL but could also lose to any team in the league, as they demonstrated in the regular season.

The Colts defeated the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks this season, all of which are the most popular Super Bowl picks. On the flip side, the Colts lost to several teams, including the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams, none of which made the playoffs.

Despite their bipolar reputation, the Colts finished 11-5 and faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs, a game that was one for the ages.

With around 13 minutes left in the third quarter, it looked as though the Colts' season was over. They were down 38-10, and according to ESPN, had a 0.9 percent chance of winning the game. However, Luck willed the Colts to go on a 35-6 run and win the game.

3 of 5. The Patriots' journey

When looking at NFL dominance in the past decade, the Patriots are the first team that comes to mind. Only this season, a great deal of misfortune hit New England. Superstar tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder, and wide receiver Wes Welker took his talents to the Denver Broncos. These were just the first incidents that began the downhill spiral that happened with the Patriots' roster. Here are the injuries that the Patriots have gone through this season alone, including the details of the injuries courtesy of bostonherald.com:

Week 1:

RB Shane Vereen (broken wrist, short-term injured reserve, 8 games)

WR Danny Amendola (torn groin, 3 games)

TE Zach Sudfeld (hamstring, 1 game)

Week 2:

WR Matthew Slater (broken wrist, 4 games)

Week 4:

DL Vince Wilfork (torn Achilles, injured reserve)

RB Steven Ridley (thigh bruise, 1 game)

S Tavon Wilson (hamstring, 3 games)

Week 5:

DT Tommy Kelly (knee, injured reserve)

RB Leon Washington (ankle, 5 games)

Week 6:

LB Jerod Mayo (torn pectoral, injured reserve)

CB Aqib Talib (hip, 3 games)<

WR Danny Amendola (concussion, 1 game)

Week 8:

RT Sebastian Vollmer (broken leg, injured reserve)

Week 9:

S Steve Gregory (broken thumb, 2 games)

CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee, 2 of next 3 games)

Week 11:

TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee, 3 games)

Week 12:

WR Aaron Dobson (foot, 3 games and counting)

RT Marcus Cannon (ankle, 2 games)

Week 13:

WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip, 2 games and counting)

Week 14:

TE Rob Gronkowski (torn ACL, MCL, injured reserve)

Many of those injuries were to key players both offensively and defensively, and many thought that the amount of adversity the Patriots had to face was just too much to overcome.

But with a quarterback like Brady, nothing is impossible. Brady took a receiving corps full of players nobody had heard of and led them to victory after victory.

Although it seemed that all odds were against them, the Patriots made the best of it and ended with a 12-4 record, which was good enough to capture the second seed in the playoffs.

4 of 5. What to watch for

The Patriots were undefeated at home this year, making Foxborough, Mass., an extremely tough place to play at.

While Brady has been known as one of the best quarterbacks to play in the clutch, Luck has begun to develop a reputation for late-game heroics as well. Since Luck joined the Colts, Indianapolis is 14-2 in games decided by seven points or less.

Luck has faced off against Brady only one time in his career, one that he would love to delete from his memory. Last season, Luck's Colts suffered a 54-29 loss at the hand of Brady's Patriots, and Luck had four turnovers in the game. With much more at stake this time around, Luck will look to improve his play and lead the Colts to victory.

Both teams have signed wide receivers that formerly played for the opponent. The Colts signed Deion Branch, who formerly won a Super Bowl MVP honor with New England, and the Patriots signed former Colts receiver and BYU graduate Austin Collie.

5 of 5. Locals to watch for

Austin Collie (BYU), New England wide receiver

Sealver Siliga (Utah/Copper Hills High), New England defensive tackle

Stanley Havili (Cottonwood High), Indianapolis fullback