KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Field Turf
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
PREDICTION: Patriots 31-21
KEYS TO THE GAME: Colts QB Peyton Manning has thrown for 300-plus yards in four of five road games this season and will sling it against the Patriots' young secondary allowing 277.8 passing yards per game. New England has just 18 sacks on the season and will have trouble laying a hand on Manning. As always with coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots will show a lot of varied looks along the front seven and alternate dropping linemen back in coverage looking to cherry pick a few passes.
The pressure will be on the Patriots' offensive line to protect Brady in a race up and down the field. Brady has been sacked just 13 times and Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis aren't quite as quick outdoors. The Patriots rely on a slew of possession receivers while the Colts' cover men focus on keeping plays in front of them — placing a premium on tackling.
FAST FACTS: Patriots QB Tom Brady has won 24 consecutive regular-season home games as a starter, one shy of Brett Favre's NFL record. ... Colts won, 35-34, at home last season with QB Peyton Manning throwing the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. ... This will be the eighth consecutive season the teams have met, with the past five, including playoffs, being decided by seven points or less. ... The Colts' Jacob Tamme leads NFL tight ends in receptions (24) and receiving yards (245) in November.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Colts QB Peyton Manning: This is not a head-to-head matchup in the true sense of the word, but both quarterbacks are capable of carrying their respective team on their shoulders. The key is who will get off to a faster start. Last week, Brady led the Patriots to 10 first-quarter points against the Steelers, which allowed New England to control the tempo. He needs to do the same this week.
Patriots LT Matt Light vs. Colts DRE Dwight Freeney: Always a classic when these two butt heads. Light has trouble against elite pass rushers, and Freeney is one of them. He is the lone player on the defensive side of the ball who can change the flow of this game. Light will need help, preferably from TE Alge Crumpler, who has proven to be a reliable blocker. Keep Brady clean, and the Patriots can win this game.
Patriots CB Devin McCourty vs. Colts WR Reggie Wayne: This might be McCourty's toughest test of the year. Wayne is one of the best in the business, and he's still Peyton Manning's favorite target. McCourty makes opposing quarterbacks pay for their mistakes, but Manning doesn't make a ton of errors, so the key here is for McCourty to stay close and be more of a cover corner than a ballhawk.
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