When they play host to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the New England Patriots hope to improve to 5-4 on the year.
Here are four audacious predictions for the game on Sunday.
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Patriots’ R Bs Underperform
It almost seems normal to anticipate a huge performance from the Patriots’ backfield, especially Rhamondre Stevenson. And it’s understandable why that’s turned into a standard.
In games where he has at least five carries, Damien Harris averages 56.6 rushing yards per game, whereas Stevenson averages 69.8 yards per game this year. More significantly, both are doing it effectively; Stevenson averages 4.9 yards per rush this season while Harris has averaged 4.4 in the aforementioned games.
Despite this, I don’t anticipate the tandem to have a good day, at least on the ground. The Colts boast one of the league’s top run defences; this season, they are second in stuff rate and sixth in rush DVOA. The Commanders’ running backs only gained 45 yards on 17 carries the previous week, whereas Derrick Henry gained 128 yards on 30 carries the week before, giving them two strong outings in the last two weeks.
Just a few yards after contact here from Rhamondre Stevenson pic.twitter.com/qTrPU8eibb
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) October 30, 2022
In addition, the Patriots’ front is currently appearing too strong. Due to a concussion, centre David Andrews will miss one more game, while tackle Marcus Cannon will miss the game on Sunday. While Isaiah Wynn, a capable runblocker, will presumably start at right tackle once more as a result, it lessens the effectiveness of the Patriots’ six offensive linemen sets.
A week before, rookie left guard Cole Strange also had trouble, and as a result of his poor performance, he was benched. Against the Jets, Stevenson had to work particularly hard for his 71 rushing yards, gaining 83 of them after contact. Stevenson’s odds are not good against this potent Colts front. But if he can endure, it’s time to list him among the top running backs in the league.
Mac Jones climbs out of struggles
This season, it seems like I’ve made a lot of predictions about what would happen. Give it another go while you can, especially with a matchup in your favour coming up.
Given that the Trevor Lawrences and Ryan Tannehills of the world have had productive games against the Colts thus far this season, Indianapolis now ranks 20th in passing defence DVOA.
As we already mentioned, the Patriots’ offensive line isn’t in the best of shape right now. If the run game can’t get going, how can the pass game? DeVante Parker, a wide receiver, will not play on Sunday because of a knee injury. Although a great wideout, Jones occasionally targeted the veteran wideout a little too much (whether or not that was his call is up for debate).
Jones will, however, be forced to rely on his receivers who can find openings quickly without Parker. Jakobi Meyers is likely to be involved as usual since his style of play is ideal for what the Patriots are looking for on Sunday. But in recent weeks, Stevenson has become a definite receiving option out of the backfield, hauling in 15 grabs in the last two games.
PATRIOTS LEAD! Mac Jones to Jakobi Meyers for the 5 yard TD! pic.twitter.com/OvLlQowr3F
— @ (@FTBeard7) October 30, 2022
Nelson Agholor and Tyquan Thornton both have the speed to enable Jones have quick-hitting options. Last season, tight end Hunter Henry served as a good safety valve for Jones. Despite a quiet start to the year, Henry will face a team on Sunday against whom he has two touchdowns and six receptions for 77 yards.
The Patriots have a lot of options in the intermediate passing game, so if they execute well on Sunday, it could be fruitful.
New England’s defense doesn’t look dominant
A week after feasting off Zach Wilson, it’s easy to think that the Patriots will feast even more off Sam Ehlinger, who’ll make his second career start on Sunday. And he’ll be without Jonathan Taylor? Should be easy, right?
It probably will, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect a performance similar to last week or in Week 5, when the Patriots shut out the Detroit Lions. Ehlinger held his own against a middle-of-the-pack Washington Commanders defense in his first NFL start, completing 17-of-23 passes for 201 yards. So, while he might not have the arm talent Wilson has, Ehlinger might not be as prone to making bad mistakes as his fellow second-year quarterback made against the Patriots last week.
A beautiful deep ball from Sam Ehlinger! pic.twitter.com/0rNxYYbG0R
— Hook’em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) October 30, 2022
The Patriots rush defense is still vulnerable, too. They held their own against backup running backs Michael Carter and James Robinson a week ago, giving up just 43 yards to the duo, but they ran the ball just 15 times as a team.
New England also ranks 27th in rush DVOA and its performance against the Chicago Bears, who rushed for 241 yards in Week 7, still remains fresh. Ehlinger can also be making plays with his legs, rushing for 377 yards in his final season at Texas in 2020.
The Patriots’ defense will more than likely get theirs on Sunday. But it won’t be 60 minutes of dominance that fans might expect it’ll be.
The Patriots still win decisively
This might be one of the few games this season that the Patriots have a clear talent edge. While the Patriots’ roster isn’t filled with stars, they’re a deep squad that’s been able to overcome injuries to players at key positions for much of the season. The Colts haven’t been able to overcome bad play, let alone injuries, at key positions so far this season. With Ehlinger making just his second career start and Taylor out on Sunday, the Patriots defense should have plenty margin for error and the offense should be able to do enough to get a comfortable win.