The Week 11 matchup between the 6-3 Colts and 6-3 Patriots is being called the game of the week by many, due mostly to the quarterback matchup. Over the last decade, the meeting of the two AFC heavy-weights always featured Peyton Manning and Tom Brady battling to the end, but for the first time it'll be Andrew Luck facing the leaders of the AFC East.
While Luck's numbers are far from those that Brady has put up through the first nine games of the season, the impact that both have had on their respective teams has been obvious. Both teams have defenses that rank in the latter half of the league, but have top five offenses that have led to six wins each.
Although the products on the field have several similarities in 2012, the road to get there between the quarterbacks couldn't be more different. Luck is a rookie that was selected with the first overall pick and given the keys to a franchise. Brady is in his 13th season with the Patriots after being selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft and had to fight for his spot on the roster before eventually earning the starter role.
Meet the Patriots
The New England offense has gone through Brady for a long time and the 2012 season is no different. With 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, Brady has a 100.1 quarterback rating and is on pace to finish a third straight season with a rating over 100. Also effective for the Patriots has been the running game as of late with Stevan Ridley leading the charge. The second-year back is third in the AFC with 814 yards rushing and has 225 in the last two games.
On defense, the Patriots have struggled in several aspects but have some young talent that bodes well for the future. Chandler Jones lead AFC rookies with six sacks while Tavon Wilson leads AFC rookies with three interceptions. Despite those players that have helped to slow passing offenses, the Patriots have allowed the fourth most pass yards in the league and will have the task of stopping the pass-happy Colts.
Meet the Colts
The Colts have certainly tried to get their money's worth with Luck, as the rookie is one of only four quarterbacks with more than 40 pass attempts per game. If he is able to throw for more than 300 yards against the porous Patriots defense, he'll become the first rookie to ever throw for 300 or more yards in five consecutive games. His passing efficiency has been necessary to make up for a subpar running game that features two running backs, Vick Ballard and Donald Brown, that haven't surpassed 400 yards so far in 2012.
Despite making very few personnel changes on defense after finishing in the bottom 10 of the league, the Colts defense has improved in its first year in a 3-4 system. The new-look defense has allowed the unit to come away with 21 sacks through the first nine games, including four from former-first round pick Jerry Hughes. Prior to the switch, Hughes had just one sack in two seasons.
Local Takes: Patriots
Alec Shane from Pats Pulpit says that the Patriots fans may need to be patient with Aqib Talib in his debut on Sunday:
I'm sure that there is going to be a BIG part of me that, should he get beat deep a few times on Sunday or become Luck's primary target as he struggles to stay with his man, will want to start throwing things and immediately condemn the coaching staff for yet another cornerback failure. But the reality of the matter is that it's going to take Talib some time to fully integrate himself into the system, and there are bound to be a few growing pains along the way.
Local Takes: Colts
Brad Wells from Stampede Blue doesn't quite think that Andrew Luck deserves the MVP talk that he has received for his rookie season so far:
Now, before we get too much into this, let me just say that Luck is not an MVP candidate, in my opinion. I personally think Reggie Wayne should get more consideration over Luck, and I'm not alone in that.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Pats Pulpit and Stampede Blue, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
One more catch today, and Deion Branch will have matched his entire 2012 catch total heading into the game.— Greg Knopping (@patspulpit) November 11, 2012
If you care, I think the Colts will beat the Patriots. There. I said it. Carry on.— Brad Wells (BBS) (@StampedeBlue) November 16, 2012
Patriots beat writer @jeffphowe
How does Visanthe Shiancoe like being a Patriot? "I love it, love it, love it, love it." Not sure he made himself clear, might ask again.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) November 16, 2012
Colts beat writer @mchappell51
For those keeping score at home, 6 defenders have been fined total of $74,375 for hits vs. #colts QB andrew luck. i sense a trend.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) November 16, 2012
Do the same for the road team's SBN blog and a couple of local beat reporters.
Be prepared for what's coming: lots and lots and lots of Brady-Luck talk. Is this the new Brady-Manning? Is Luck as good as Manning? Do you think Brady and Luck are friends? Better friends than Brady and Manning? Why is Peyton's forehead so big? (That last one is a legitimate question.)
The pick: 33-27, Patriots
Despite the fact that it's a battle between teams with identical, 6-3 records, the Patriots are one of the biggest favorites of Week 11. While most sports books have the Colts as nine-point underdogs, one book lists the spread as large as 10 points in favor of the Patriots, according to OddsShark.