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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Thursday Night Football Preview: New England Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts

The NFL season is a quarter of the way through, and teams are beginning to figure out who they are. With that comes major tests, and one such test is on Thursday Night Football. The New England Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night, and the game serves as different opportunities for both teams. For the Patriots, this is a chance to get back on top of the AFC. For the Colts, it’s a chance to make a statement in a new regime.

Patriots Trying to Reclaim Dominance

The New England Patriots are 2-2 and are coming off a big win over division rival Miami. The Patriots started last season 2-2 as well, and eventually made it to the Super Bowl. This season however, the Patriots have shown an alarming amount of inconsistency. The defense has struggled at times, specifically in the Week 2 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it hasn’t been the only reason for their struggles.

The Patriots offense has been inconsistent as well, struggling to keep up with Jacksonville and scoring only 10 points against the Detroit Lions. A large part of this is the lack of weapons for quarterback Tom Brady. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski is dealing with injuries and the wide receiving corps is thin. What could help? The return of receiver Julian Edelman. This upcoming game will be his first back since Super Bowl LI, after suffering through a torn ACL last season and a four-game suspension this season.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1047253392308011009

The biggest factor in the Patriots’ struggles is perhaps not the offense or defense. The one thing in common between the Patriots two losses: both were on the road. After a 1-2 start, the Patriots dominated the Dolphins at home. Hosting another game at Gillette Stadium could be the comforting atmosphere this team needs to get itself over .500.

Colts Looking for a Rebound

The Colts have also struggled, but have done so with different expectations. Despite a 1-3 record, the Colts have played better than many predicted. This is mostly due to quarterback Andrew Luck returning from a major shoulder injury. Luck has been a little rusty, but has already thrown for 1,126 yards and 9 touchdowns. Despite a lack of weapons at nearly every position, the offense has looked much better under new coach Frank Reich. These improvements are there, but they aren’t translating to wins yet.

The Colts have been competitive in every game they’ve played, and could conceivably be 4-0 right now. Late mistakes have prevented that. The most heartbreaking of which came in their last game at home against the division rival Houston Texans. The Colts could not convert on a fourth down in overtime, and lost because of it.

The Colts are looking for a stepping point against the Patriots. A win on Thursday could prevent being in a two game hole, but could also provide an emotional spark to the locker room. A spark is all they need right now.

The Matchup

The Patriots and Colts franchises have history. It stems from the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry. Lately, the Patriots have dominated the series.

In the NFL, an important part of the game is quarterback play. Andrew Luck, statistically, has outplayed Tom Brady this season. He’s thrown for more yards, less interceptions and has a higher completion percentage. The Colts’ offense as a whole however, has not been better than the Patriots. The Colts average only 4.9 yards per play, which ranks near the bottom in the NFL. New England is much better at 5.3 yards per play.

While the Colts can move the ball, their offense is channeled mostly through Andrew Luck. The Patriots on the other hand, can lean on two talented running backs in James White and Sony Michel. That could be the difference in the game, as the Patriots can mix up their offense more than the Colts. Since both teams have struggling defenses, keeping the other offense off the field is a must.

What’s Next?

The New England Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m.

The Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs at 8:20 p.m. next week for Sunday Night Football. Earlier that day, the Colts travel to face the New York Jets at 1:00 p.m.

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