AFC Championship preview & prediction

Last week Indianapolis managed to cause the upset of the Divisional Round, and I was absolutely delighted that they were able to shut down the Broncos offence so comfortably, and thrilled that I correctly predicted it. In allowing no sacks, the Colts offensive line obviously had a decent enough game, and certainly performed better than I expected against Von Miller and the rest of the powerful Broncos pass rush, but in truth, it was the masterful vision and exceptional movement in the pocket of Andrew Luck that was the key to their performance and the overall result. Despite their commendable win, the Colts however remain weak against the run, and it is here that I believe Belichick will look to exploit them.


Back in week 11, the Patriots unleashed Jonas Gray, and his 201 yard, 4 touchdown performance was one of the most astounding and unexpected of the entire season. I would not be surprised if we were to witness something similar from either him or LaGarrette Blount tonight, especially if the weather turns nasty. Ball security will be paramount, and turnovers could be a key factor, especially as the Colts trailed only Philadelphia this season in forced fumbles with 24. Indianapolis’ secondary has been excellent so far in the post season, and I wrote about the excellent Vontae Davis and Darius Butler in my ‘Unsung heroes of the week’ article earlier in the week. I was impressed, but I worry about how they will fair against the Patriots’ receiving weapons, especially Gronkowski, who is a match-up nightmare for any team. If the rain does come, short, efficient passes will be more important than ever, and we saw last week that Brady has huge confidence in Danny Amendola in this type of scenario.


The Patriots put up big points against the Ravens, and I don’t imagine that Brady will have too much trouble doing the same this week, weather permitting. With the two quarterbacks lining up, there is certainly a strong possibility of this descending into a shoot-out, but I would imagine that this will only occur if the Colts are able to halt the New England running game and stop them chewing up the clock on the ground. If Andrew Luck can get his team ahead, and force the Patriots to fire back at them, then we will be in for a treat, but if the Patriots are able to move the ball at will with Gray and/or Blount then I fear a more subdued affair.


Despite my adoration for Andrew Luck, on most fronts I’m finding it hard to look past the home team, probably more because picking against Brady and Belichick in their 9th AFC Championship game seems a foolish idea. That being said, the Patriots’ secondary looked vulnerable against Joe Flacco last week, and there is no doubt that Luck has the talent and weapons to put up points, with TY Hilton, Coby Fleener and the improving Dan ‘Boom’ Herron catching short passes out of the backfield. My worry is that with such a week running attack, Luck will eventually try to force the ball one too many times, resulting in one or more turnovers.


I think it will be a close affair, and will be settled in the final few minutes with a winning score. Both quarterbacks have the ability to win in close 4th quarter situations, but I’m going to go with the wily veteran over the irrepressible youngster this time. Andrew Luck will be a Super Bowl winning quarterback eventually, but this is still Tom Brady’s time, and he will do enough to go back to the big dance one more time.


Indianapolis 28 – 35 New England