Have you ever heard the story of 300? With apologies to the great Greek legend, it goes something like this. Led by King Leonidas, his army of 300 specialized armies marched to the narrow pass known as Thermopylae. Fending off the Persian invasion of thousands, Leonidas and his army stood strong in the mountain despite the Oracle predicting failure. They fought valiantly but the battle was lost in the end. That’s a crude abbreviation of the story but you get the point.
Our king Leonidas, Andrew Luck, will fly into Foxboro for Thursday night’s battle against the Patriots. The evil army is coming off of a 38-7 battering of the Miami Dolphins and the Colts are still feigning from a heartbreaking loss against Houston. To make matters worse (as you are about to see), the injury report is simply gruesome. A win in New England seems impossible. Andrew Luck will have to rewrite history if he wants to escape this battle alive.
TE Jack Doyle (Hip)
T/G Denzelle Good (Not Injury Related)
WR T.Y. Hilton (Chest/Hamstring)
RB Marlon Mack (Foot/Hamstring)
CB Kenny Moore II (Concussion)
DT Hassan Ridgeway (Calf)
CB Quincy Wilson (Concussion)
OT Anthony Castonzo (Hamstring)
S Clayton Geathers (Knee)
CB Nate Hairston (Ankle)
C Ryan Kelly (Hand)
LB Darius Leonard (Ankle)
K Adam Vinatieri (Right Groin)
TE Eric Ebron (Shoulder/Knee)
S Malik Hooker (Hip Groin)
LB Anthony Walker (Groin)
New England Patriots
DL Adam Butler (Knee)
WR Josh Gordon (Hamstring)
DL Geneo Grissom (Ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (Ankle)
TE Jacob Hollister (Chest)
LB Elandon Roberts (Calf)
DB Eric Rowe (Groin)
DL Danny Shelton (Elbow)
LB Brandon King (Foot)
OL LaAdrian Waddle (Illness)
Nyheim Hines and Eric Ebron vs Patriots’ Linebackers
I’m grouping these two together against the linebackers for a few reasons. One, they’re essentially the only two weapons that the Colts have left. Secondly, they are in a position to exploit New England’s biggest defensive weakness: linebacker speed. Nyheim Hines carved up the Houston Texans last week for nine receptions, 63 yards, and two touchdowns. Eric Ebron’s speed over the middle has been a detriment for opposing defenses; he’s already racked up 150 yards and three scores.
New England’s linebacking corps, composed of Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts, and Kyle Van Noy is solid but slow. They’ve had major trouble containing crossing routes all season. Working underneath with Hines and Ebron should be the bulk of the Colts’ game plan against the Patriots.
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Colts’ Defensive Line vs Patriots’ Offensive Line
Last week against the Texans, the Colts’ front dominated, recording seven sacks. Still, the struggled to control DeShaun Watson’s mobility. Tom Brady is adept at moving the pocket but doesn’t have the wheels of a Watson. The Patriots have a solid offensive line but nothing like some of the lines that the Colts have faced this season.
The Patriots carved up Miami with the run and the pass last week. Stopping the run and getting pressure on Tom Brady will be crucial for the Colts to have any chance of containing New England’s vaunted offense, especially with Julian Edelman back.
Spotlight of the Week: Matt Eberflus
Normally the spotlight of the week goes to a player but this week Matt Eberflus gets the nod. Eberflus has been instrumental this season, transforming the Colts’ defense. Nobody could have predicted that this unit would rank second in the NFL in sacks (17) while blitzing one of the least frequently among all teams. Now, with many of his playmakers injured and playing the best offense ever, he’s going to have to work some magic.
My advice for Eberflus? Don’t get flustered. Among all things, fear drives Bill Belichick’s dynasty. Teams are so afraid of stopping Tom Brady that they completely abandon their working formula. The Jags fell victim to this in the last AFC Championship and many have before them. Matt Eberflus will have a game plan, no matter how effective. Stick with it if you want any chance.
Heading into Foxboro and knocking off the New England Patriots is never an easy task. Having most of your best players injured makes it a nearly insurmountable challenge. If Andrew Luck could pull out a win, it would be historic. Yet, Indianapolis is simply outmatched in this brutal Thursday night bloodbath to be.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.