Found November 16, 2012 on Boston Sports Then & Now:
With a firm grasp on the AFC East, the Patriots look to get a big victory against a hungry Colts team. Who are the 2012 New England Patriots?  Unfortunately, the answer to this fundamental question may never surface until February 2013. Through nine games, Bill Belichick and crew have showcased a variety of performances and earned the AFC East first place record of 6-3. While not always pretty, the Patriots still display the mental fortitude and “bend but don’t break” defense stakeholders have grown accustom to. From dropping 52 points on opposing defenses to giving up 400+ yards of offense, New England continues to surprise teams and critics around the league. One squad that has opened eyes in 2012 is the new look Colts, lead by rookie QB Andrew Luck. Sitting at 6-3, Indianapolis will travel into Gillette Stadium looking to shed their notorious woes in New England and pick up a huge road win. Check out these three keys to victory for the Patriots come 4:25 on Sunday: 1)   Double Reggie Wayne: Leading the NFL with a league-high 105 targets, Wayne has hauled in 69 catches for 931 yards and 3 TD.  For a quick comparison, Welker has logged 66 receptions, gaining 810 yards and 2 TD on 94 targets. There is no doubt that all eyes will be on the debut of recently acquired CB Aqib Talib. Belichick will not put Talib in a position to fail; however, the Patriots defensive backs have exposed themselves too many times this season not to utilize him. After Wayne, the Colts rollout WRs Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton – both who have each recorded big plays of 40+ yards this season. The Colts also have two skilled young TEs in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Being able to contain Reggie Wayne will force secondary options to prove their worth. Furthermore, the pedestrian backfield of Donald Brown and Vic Ballard has earned the Colts the 16th slot in rushing at 109.4 YPG. The Patriots have faced far tougher halfbacks this year and proven to be one of the better rush defenses in the NFL (8th in NFL at 96.8 YPG). Take away his 212 yard performance in Week 4, Reggie Wayne has only surpassed 100 yards in one other week – the first of the season. Limiting his production on Sunday needs to be a priority for the Patriots in Week 11. 2)   Spy Andrew Luck: With 5 rushing touchdowns, Luck has found the endzone on the ground as many times as the following players; Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, Alfred Morris, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore and Shonn Greene. There is no doubt he follows suit with the new breed of quarterback; strong arm, high IQ and mobile tendencies. The Colts (8th) sit right behind the Patriots (7th) in terms of passing offense. Although New England is used to giving up tons of yardage when playing ahead, the x-factor on Sunday may be Luck’s success on the ground. Last week QB Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled his way to several drive sustaining first downs. Having LBs Mayo and Hightower shadow Luck should give enough time for DEs Jones and Ninkovich to force the rookie into a few difficult decisions and subsequent turnovers. Expect Belichick to throw in some deceiving defensive schemes to make Luck beat us with his arm and not his feet. 3)   Keep It Simple: The media and fans alike have criticized OC Josh McDaniels for being “too cute” with his play selection in 2012. Guess what, the Patriots still have the number one offense in the NFL, averaging 33.2 PPG and 430 TYPG. New England took a couple blows last week when Welker and Mankins were forced from the game against the Bills. With TE Aaron Hernandez continuing to recover from his ankle injury, expect to see a healthy load from RBs Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden. The Colts have a subpar rush defense, allowing 120.3 YPG, 22nd in the NFL. So which Patriots will show up on Sunday? The dominating squad who put the hurt on the Titans & Rams? The passive team who handed the Jets a game and let them fumble it away? I’ll opt-in for the classic Colts/Patriots shootout that ends in a monumental turnover like last week. I see New England squeaking by Indianapolis with a 38-34 victory.
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