INDIANAPOLIS — "The rivalry is back on."
This matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots — the first since 2015 and the first since Andrew Luck will have likely returned — may be the most-anticipated Colts game in a few years.
There are plenty of reasons as to why that is, so let's get to it.
- Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8:20 p.m. ET (Thursday Night Football)
- Foxboro, Mass. (Gillette Stadium)
- TV — FOX/NFLN
- Patriots lead, 47-28. Have won the last seven, dating back to 2010.
- Last game — Week 6 of 2015. Patriots won, 34-27.
- HC Frank Reich
- OC Nick Sirianni
- DC Matt Eberflus
- STC Bubba Ventrone
- HC Bill Belichick
- OC Josh McDaniels
- DC Bill Belichick/Brian Flores
- STC Joe Judge
KEY NEW FACES
- OG Quenton Nelson
- TE Eric Ebron
- WR Ryan Grant
- RB Nyheim Hines
- DT/DE Denico Autry
- RB Sony Michel
- WR Jordan Matthews
- OT Isaiah Wynn
- OT Trent Brown
- DE Adrian Clayborn
OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES
- The Colts got an almost entirely new coaching staff this offseason, and general manager Chris Ballard went into his second offseason of flipping the roster.
- With the coaching change came a switch to a 4-3, Tampa-2 style defense from the hybrid 3-4 defense.
- From 2017 to 2018, there could be as many as a dozen or more new starters.
- One of those new starters will be at running back. Frank Gore is now on the Miami Dolphins, so a new face will be stepping into the starting tailback spot.
- The Patriots always find a way to replace what they lose, but this year they lost several notable players, either to free agency or trade: WR Brandin Cooks, RB Dion Lewis, CB Malcolm Butler, WR Danny Amendola, OT Nate Solder, OT Cam Fleming.
- Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left in the offseason to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions. While Brian Flores has yet to be named the defensive coordinator, he will assume play-calling duties. No changes for the Patriots at offensive coordinator, though.
- The Reason Why "The Rivalry Is Back On" — It's the elephant in the room and will likely be the biggest talking point leading up to the game. Following the Super Bowl in February, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the Colts agreed to terms on him becoming the head coach, and it had already been rumored for weeks leading up to that point. After the move was announced, McDaniels had second thoughts and backed out. Colts general manager Chris Ballard held a press conference afterward, ending it with the line, "The rivalry is back on." Less than a week later, the Colts ultimately got the right guy in recent Super Bowl winner Frank Reich.
- Frank Reich vs. Bill Belichick Part 2 — As offensive coordinator, Reich was part of the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff that was able to get the better of Belichick, McDaniels and the Patriots in this February's Super Bowl. The Eagles pulled out some cunning play calls on offense during the game, ultimately leading to their victory. What tricks will Reich have up his sleeve this time, and will the Patriots be ready for it?
- Luck's First Win Versus New England? — The Colts have not been able to beat the Patriots since Peyton Manning was quarterback. Like Manning before him, Luck has struggled to keep up with the Patriots to start his career (0-5). Will Luck finally get that monkey off of his back like Manning was finally able to do?
- Julian Edelman and Robert Turbin Return From Suspensions — Both Colts running back Robert Turbin and Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will be suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season due to violations of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. They are both eligible to return in this matchup.
- Patriots TE Dwayne Allen and WR Phillip Dorsett Face Their Old Team — The Colts traded both tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots last offseason. This is scheduled to be their first matchup since. Will it give the two a little extra motivation?
- Colts RB Robert Turbin vs. Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower — Hightower is one of the best blitzing off-ball linebackers in the NFL, and Turbin is one of its best running backs at picking up blitzes.
- Colts CB Nate Hairston vs. Patriots WR Julian Edelman — While playing from the slot, Edelman is likely to be Hairston's assignment if still playing the nickel. Hairston was a pleasant surprise as the starting nickel last year as a rookie. Edelman is one of the league's most dangerous slot receivers, so this is a big opportunity for Hairston to shine.
- Colts S Malik Hooker/Clayton Geathers vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski — Gronkowski is the ultimate mismatch nightmare in the league, so it's hard to say exactly who the Colts will use to cover him. However, we have often seen the Colts use a safety to cover tight ends, particularly in the red zone (where Gronkowski is at his most effective).
- Passing — QB Jacoby Brissett (3,098 yards)
- Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (358 yards)
- Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (966 yards)
- Touchdowns — QB Jacoby Brissett, WR T.Y. Hilton, TE Jack Doyle (4)
- Tackles — LB Antonio Morrison (108 total)
- Sacks — DE Jabaal Sheard (5.5)
- Interceptions — S Malik Hooker (3)
- Passing — QB Tom Brady (4,577 yards)
- Rushing — RB Mike Gillislee (383 yards)
- Receiving — TE Rob Gronkowski (1,084 yards)
- Touchdowns — TE Rob Gronkowski (8)
- Tackles — S Devin McCourty (97)
- Sacks — DE Trey Flowers (6.5)
- Interceptions — S Duron Harmon (4)
COMPARING 2017 STATS
- Total offense — 31st (284.8 YPG)
- Scoring offense — 30th (16.4 PPG)
- Passing offense — 30th (180.8 YPG)
- Running offense — 22nd (103.8 YPG)
- Total defense — 30th (367.1 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 30th (25.2 PPG)
- Passing defense — 28th (246.6 YPG)
- Sacks — 31st (25)
- Running defense — 26th (120.4 YPG)
- Time of possession — 22nd (29:41)
- Turnover margin — 13th (+5)
- Total offense — 1st (394.2 YPG)
- Scoring offense — 2nd (28.6 PPG)
- Passing offense — 2nd (276.1 YPG)
- Running offense — 10th (118.1 YPG)
- Total defense — 29th (366.0 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 5th (18.5 PPG)
- Passing defense — 30th (251.2 YPG)
- Sacks — 7th (42)
- Running defense — 20th (114.8 YPG)
- Time of possession — 11th (30:37)
- Turnover margin — 11th (+6)
Other 2018 Colts Season Previews:
A look back at the Colts 2015 game against the Patriots.