New England Patriots (9-4, 9-4 ATS) at Indianapolis Colts (7-6, 8-5), 8:20 p.m., Saturday
Brolley’s Patriots Stats and Trends
The Patriots are the hottest team in the AFC with seven straight outright wins and covers after knocking off the Bills as three-point road underdogs to remain atop the division.
They’re not only winning but they’ve been covering by big margins, sporting an average cover margin of +18.6 points in their last seven games.
New England is 8-2 toward unders in its last 10 road games.
Damien Harris had the pivotal 64-yard touchdown run in New England’s run-centric victory over the Bills in windy conditions in Week 13. However, he left after 11 carries with a hamstring injury and his availability for Saturday is up in the air. Rhamondre Stevenson is the 1B runner and he took over as the primary back with 24/78 rushing against the Bills. Passing back Brandon Bolden wasn’t included in New England’s run-heavy gameplan in Week 14 with just six snaps, but he did touch the ball five times and he got 4.5 FP. He could take on a bigger role next to Stevenson (and potentially J.J. Taylor, as well) if Harris is unable to play on Saturday. Leonard Fournette ripped the Colts for 24/131/4 scrimmage back in Week 12, but Indy is still giving up the fifth-fewest FPG (20.4) to the position.
Mac Jones threw just three times the last time the Patriots took the field against the Bills in extremely windy conditions in Week 13. Mac did come through in Week 12 with a little extra volume, completing 23/32 passes for 310 yards (9.7 YPA) and two TDs for 21.5 FP against the Titans. The Colts’ pass defense has tightened up over their last four games, limiting Tom Brady to 6.6 YPA and 12.2 FP and Josh Allen to 6.0 YPA and 18.2 FP.
The last time the Patriots actually passed the ball in Week 12, Jakobi Meyers posted a season-high 98 receiving yards. Meyers still has just one TD and he’s reached double-digit FP just twice in his last seven games. Cole Beasley managed 4/23 receiving in this matchup in Week 11, and the Colts haven’t allowed a WR to reach 40+ receiving yards in their last four contests.
Kendrick Bourne had 4+ receptions in seven of his last 10 games between Weeks 3-12 before the Patriots went with their extreme run-heavy plan in Week 13. He went for 23+ FP in two of three games in Weeks 10-12 after posting 5/61/2 receiving against the Titans in Week 12. The Colts limited Brandin Cooks to 3/38 receiving the last time they played in Week 13.
Hunter Henry hasn’t scored in three consecutive games after scoring seven times in a seven-game span in Weeks 4-10, and he’s fallen below 30+ receiving yards in six of his last eight games. The Colts haven’t given up a touchdown to a tight end in four straight games, but they’re still giving up the fourth-most FPG (16.1) to the position.
Brolley’s Colts Stats and Trends
The Colts come out of their bye week with 7-3 marks ATS and overall in their last 10 games after their sluggish start to the season through three weeks.
Indy is 5-2 toward overs in its last seven games.
Jonathan Taylor has scored 19+ FP in 10 consecutive games, and he’s averaging a ridiculous 103.7 rushing yards per game. He had as many offensive touchdowns as the Texans and Giants with 18 scores through the first 13 weeks of the season. D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard ripped New England’s run defense for 31/240/1 rushing in Week 12, and the Patriots are giving up 4.5 YPC to RBs this season.
Carson Wentz has topped 12+ FP just once in his last four games, and he’s attempted 22 or fewer passes in two of his last three games. The Patriots limited Josh Allen to 12.7 FP in windy conditions the last time out, and they haven’t allowed a quarterback to reach 16+ FP during their seven-game winning streak.
Michael Pittman has failed to score a touchdown in four straight games, and he failed to reach double-digit FP in consecutive games in Weeks 12-13. He’s still operating as the clear top receiver with 7.6 targets per game and a 24% target share. The Patriots limited Stefon Diggs to 4/51 receiving in ugly conditions in Week 13, and they’re giving up the fourth-fewest FPG (29.1) to WRs this season.
The Colts haven’t had a consistent secondary receiver behind Pittman for most of the season. T.Y. Hilton ran the most routes (18) behind Pittman in Week 13, followed by Zach Pascal (17), and Jack Doyle (9), and no receiver reached 3+ catches or 35+ yards against the Texans.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 32.1 (31st)
Plays per game: 62.3 (20th)
Pass: 45.7% (31st) | Run: 54.3% (2nd)
Pace: 30.1 (27th)
Plays per game: 65.6 (10th)
Pass: 52.4% (30th) | Run: 47.6% (3rd)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Patriots-Colts has the worst adjusted combined pace for Week 16 between these two very slow, very run-heavy offenses. It’s been a tough season for the “running the ball doesn’t matter” Hive Mind and these two attacks are at the forefront of running to win, not passing to win. Obviously, what the Patriots did to the Bills back on MNF is burned in everyone’s minds – but they were playing extremely run-heavy before that.
Over the last eight weeks, the Patriots are the second-most run-heavy offense (56.5%) in neutral situations (game within a score in 1st-3rd quarter) while the Colts are at 46.7% run in close games (8th-highest). Oh, and the Patriots are the most run-heavy offense when trailing (51.3%) while the Colts run at the third-highest rate when they’re behind (47.6%).
So, no matter which way this game goes, both of these offenses are going to look to play slow, grind clock, and run the rock. That said, I’m a little surprised that the markets are so aggressive on these offenses' abilities to put up points – the total (46) is the fourth-highest on the slate.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Colt WR Michael Pittman running 55% of his outside routes from the right side will place him within the coverage of J.C. Jackson. Carson Wentz targeted the coverage of Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard, Marlon Humphrey, and Tre'Davious White 4.5 times/game this season – 15% of his total attempts.
Even with Jackson in coverage of Pittman, count on seeing Wentz looking his way. At a certain level of targeting, all coverage will fail to prevent a receiver from exceeding his floor. Assuming no more than 4.5 targets into Jackson’s coverage, Pittman will still be difficult to trust. With one TD allowed vs. seven INTs and eight pass defenses, Jackson leads all outside CBs with a 39.2 TPR. You guessed it, a QB receives a higher passer rating when spiking the football (39.6) than Jackson’s coverage. Even with Jackson – for whatever insane reason – being the ninth-most targeted perimeter corner, he’s still only permitting 0.23 FP/CS (29th-fewest).
This is going to be the most difficult challenge of the season for Mac Jones. The Pats have played the fifth-easiest schedule. He played extremely well against Cleveland in Week 10, but they did not put anything close to the type of coverages he’ll see this week.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
There’s no doubt the Patriots are going to run the ball this week, potentially explosively so. That will be more true if Damien Harris (hamstring) is able to play coming out of the bye to join Rhamondre Stevenson in this backfield. (I prefer Stevenson, by the way, given Harris’ status.)
But my cohost on the Fantasy Feast Podcast, Ross Tucker, told me this week he expects Bill Belichick to mix in a lot more play-action looks after their 2-completion win against the Bills in Week 13. Ross said this because he thinks Colt LB Bobby Okereke made a crucial mistake by saying the Colts know they have to get downhill and defend the run.
The Colts haven’t allowed a lot of production to WRs of late, and the Patriots haven’t had a fully trustworthy receiver for fantasy this entire year, but don’t be shocked if Kendrick Bourne or Nelson Agholor makes a play on Saturday night — Jakobi Meyers has a draw here with slot CB Kenny Moore but also doesn’t leave the field. Those guys are highly volatile WR3s, with Meyers the safest.
The old adage for fantasy is that Bill Belichick will try to take away an opposing team’s best player. In fact, it’s something Colt WR TY Hilton is familiar with.
T.Y. Hilton on facing Bill Belichick: "Whatever you do well, he's gonna take it away. So if you're right-handed, you better learn to shoot with your left hand. If you're left-handed, you better learn to shoot with your right hand." #Colts— George Bremer (@gmbremer) December 15, 2021
TY Hilton, who's 0-5 against Belichick and the Patriots in his career, says he can't remember a game vs. them in which he hasn't seen double coverage. No doubt this one means more to him.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) December 15, 2021
"I’m 0-fer against them. If anyone needs motivation, 13’s gonna give them some motivation."
The Colts are red-hot, having won four of their last five and five of their last seven, but Wentz has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in four of those five victories. Wentz’s season-high in pass attempts in a win is 34, a game in which he averaged 5.3 YPA against the Jaguars (180 yards passing). Meanwhile, the Patriots give up a third-fewest 195.5 pass YPG and have allowed just two passers to top 300 yards against them — Dak Prescott (OK) and Davis Mills (what).
Here’s Scott Barrett from Start/Sit:
“New England’s pass defense isn’t just great, it’s historically great. Opposing QBs are averaging a passer rating of just 70.9 against them, which ranks 6th-best by any defense this past decade. Since Week 7, opposing QBs are averaging just 9.3 FPG against them. That’s not a typo.
Wentz has been solid this year, ranking 16th in FPG (16.7). Or, better yet, 12th in FPG (18.9) if we exclude comically lopsided victories (of 25 or more points). But in this matchup, there’s a legitimate chance he fails to score even 12 fantasy points. Only 2 of New England’s past 7 opponents have accomplished this feat (Josh Allen and Justin Herbert), and Wentz himself has reached that mark just once over his last 4 games.”