We have an entire week to look at weather forecasts, analyze statistics, view highlights and game footage, and generally convince ourselves that we have the slightest idea what kind of football game will be played on Saturday night. The Colts will be in town to play the Patriots and I have no clue what will happen. And I'm fine with that.
This season has been like riding a roller coaster blindfolded, across the NFL but especially in Foxborough. It's been an insane season. The way the Patriots-Saints game ended, the way the Broncos game ended, the way the Browns game ended. On the flip side of insanity, there was also the way the road Jets game and the Panthers game ended.
The only thing crazier than this Patriots season would be trying to predict what happens next.
I could drone on about stats, and about Andrew Luck being a good QB, and the Colts doing well against playoff teams, and the Patriots doing well at home, but also struggling in home playoff games lately. None of it matters.
The winner of this game will be the team that executes better. It's easy to say that, not so easy to do it.
Just look at the Colts. They played two different games against Kansas City. They played a good half and a bad half, and they barely won. They executed better than the Chiefs. The Patriots have been doing that all season long. One horrible half, one great half. So which team can find a way to play well for 35 or 40 minutes instead of just 30 could win this game.
Tom Brady needs to make good throws. Period. He's the best player on the team. He doesn't need to be amazing, but these overthrown and underthrown incompletions need to be reduced. He was 21st this season in completion percentage (60.5%), nestled between Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill. Some of that was due to lack of talented receivers, lots of that was due to bad throws.
But hey, Andrew Luck was 24th at 60.2%.
The Patriots need to be productive on the ground. Especially if it rains. A good ground game allows the passing game to be more dynamic. It lets you control the clock. It gets you first downs. It lets you chew up a defensive line.
The Pats need to hold on to the ball. Stevan Ridley, I'm looking at you.
The Colts defied football logic and lost the turnover battle against KC but won the game. However the Colts had the second best takeaway-giveaway number in the AFC this year (+13). The Pats were third best (+9). Obviously, whoever wins the turnover battle on Saturday will probably win.
Unless they can't execute in the Red Zone. And that's been an issue for the Gronk-less Patriots all year. Either the offense needs to execute better in the Red Zone, or the defense needs to make some Red Zone stops. The Colts had one of the worst Red Zone defenses in the NFL. They allowed TDs on over 60% of Red Zone possessions. I suppose that's good for the Patriots.
Looks like I did mention a few stats and did some regular season analysis. Sue me. All those stats come with an "if" or a "but" or an "unless," which is why they mean nothing. They're in the past. The Colts allowed 3 touchdowns for every 5 Red Zone possessions their opponents had. Big deal. It's still up to the Patriots to execute on Saturday.
I do think this is the Patriots' game to lose. It's at home, against a dome team, against an inconsistent team. But the Patriots have hardly been consistent this year, they're 8-0 at home but that hasn't been easy. The Bengals were also 8-0 at home and lost there to a team that was 4-4 on the road. So who cares?
If I had to make a prediction, I'd say the Patriots should win 24-20. But predicting this season has been harder than predicting the weather. It's been like trying to predict the weather 20 weeks from now. You might have some general ideas based on past experience, but they mean next to nothing. You don't know. I don't know. Just count down the days and enjoy the show.