|Dr. Z's Positional Breakdown|
|How the Colts and Patriots match up for Sunday's big game.|
|Robert Mathis(98) |
He's quick and all that, but he's 245 pounds and all running attacks seem aimed at him, now that strongside LB Rob Morris is out. He needs lots of relief, mostly from Josh Thomas (91), not as swift but stronger at the point and a dedicated pass rusher.
|LE||Ty Warren (94)|
He's 300 pounds and very sturdy against the run, but if they don't pay attention to him, he'll come up with the big pressure or sack, even in the base three-man defense. He'll go to tackle in the four-man, third down set. Technically their best D-lineman.
They've been looking for the big guy up front for a few years now but Corey Simon and Booger McFarland both went down with injuries, and along came free agent rookie Johnson. You don't have to be great, they told him. Just help keep us from getting overrun. He's been functional and fairly active, but he's still very young.
|Vince Wilfork(75) |
Wild and a bit out of control when he first came into the league, he has become a master technician at the nose position. Oh yes, he's also 325 pounds. Pretty close to the level of the Williamses, Pat and Jamal. Usually he'll leave the field on third downs, as one of the DE's, or some exotic LB combination, takes over inside.
|Raheem Brock (79)|
At 274, one of the league's smallest DT's, but cat-quick and always good for one or two tackles for loss, per game, when he slips the block. They have to spell him, though, usually with Darrell Reed (95), although I have a feeling a bigger guy, 299-pound rookie, Quinn Pitcock (97), will get a chance Sunday. Patriot fans will holler, when I call the Brock-Thomas matchup even, but I really like this guy's big-play potential.
|Adalius Thomas (96)|
Kind of an artificial matchup here, the strong inside backer against a DT, but that's what happens when it's 4-3 vs. 3-4. I know they're very proud of themselves for grabbing an obvious Belichick-type Jack of all trades from the Baltimore system, and he'll make a key play here and there, but he'll disappear, too, as he did against the Skins. You could see him line up as an edge rusher Sunday, but I have a feeling they're saving him to man up against Clark.
He's a litmus test for any OT who's a little slow in his set-up or off in his leverage, because he'll make him pay. LT Light, unfortunately, is not the best kind of match-up for Freeney's variety of speed rush, because he's extremely quick-footed. Last year he came close to shutting him down. Nevertheless, Freeney always has to be taken seriously ... he's a turnover waiting to happen.
He's been the starter while Richard Seymour has been recovering from knee problems. I'm guessing he'll start on Sunday, too, although Seymour (93) saw some undistinguished action last weekend. As Warren will, he'll exert pressure out of a three-man set, and he'll hold his side up against the run. I'm guessing that on Sunday, Seymour will take over some of his duties at DT in the four-man situations.
|Tyjuan Hagler (56) |
When Rob Morris got hurt, they tried Rocky Boiman(50) at the strongside. A week later they moved Hagler over from weak, where he had done a fine job filling in for Freddy Keiaho (54), who was also hurt. The Panthers ran at him, and that's got to be a concern Sunday. He's active but he's not your typical strongside plugger.
|SLB||Mike Vrabel (50)|
Can rush or drop, from either side, can play in tight or in space. Had a career day rushing from the left wing against the Redskins, and God help any slow-footed RT who has to block him alone, because he'll eat him up. I can't begin to guess what his role will be against the Colts, but I'm sure Diem will see his share of him.
|Gary Brackett (58) |
On the smallish side at 5-11, 235, and can get overwhelmed, but plays hard and doesn't give up without a fight. I'm guessing that if they open in the nickel, he'll stay on the field to monitor Maroney, while one of the outside guys sits.
|Tedy Bruschi (54)|
He'll make the occasional big play, but his role has diminished lately as Junior Seau (55) assumes more of an identity. Don't forget that Bruschi was a super sacker in college, and I can see him testing the interior of the Colts' line with blitzes. Or maybe Seau could.
|Freddy Keiaho (54)|
Problematic. Missed the Panthers game with head problems. A fine, athletic, aggressive young backer, but if he can't go, Hagler will be on that side and Boiman will go at strong. Or there could be a nickel back in here. Hard to figure out what will happen.
|WLB||Rosevelt Colvin (59)|
He was a dynamite edge rusher in Chicago, but he suffered a bad hip injury in New England and missed a year. They were patient with him, and now it's paying off because he has become a real factor in their pressure scheme. He has been pretty good in coverage, too.
Took over this year when veteran Nick Harper went to Tennessee. Young and active, has been more of a target than Marlin Jackson on the right side, but has held up well.
Cocky and intimidating. Good and he knows it. Held out this summer, just as Ty Law did before him. It seems to go with the position. As close to a shutdown corner as the league has.
|Bob Sanders(21) |
Only weakness is that he keeps getting hurt. Against Carolina, in his second game back from a rib injury, I didn't know he was on the field. Maybe they were lightening his load, getting him ready for the Patriots. A quick and devastating striker. A mini-Ray Lewis in Lewis' prime.
He'll get himself up for a supreme effort Sunday -- guaranteed. I keep trying to find candidates for Clark duty, and he might be the man. I think they feel that if Clark gets whacked hard and often enough, he might drop the ball, and Harrison qualifies as a whacker. He'll blitz, too, you know.
|Antoine Bethea(41) |
Every time I look, he's making plays, either close to the line or in space. He's not afraid to stick his nose in. He and Sanders at the safeties give them the grain of toughness they desperately wanted this year.
Started the season at strong safety when Harrison was inactive. Moved to free when Eugene Wilson (26) went down with an ankle injury. Will Wilson play? If you can find that out, report to the CIA for immediate employment.
Moved over from free safety this year. Taking over for Jason David was a huge improvement, both in size, striking power and coverage. He can get into roughneck modes, though, and has had to be placed in restraints.
The other team is always throwing early because it's always playing from behind. It's not too profitable, testing Samuel consistently, so Hobbs gets the work. Against the Skins, he kept things in front of him, gave up a few shorties and had fun, as everyone else did.
|TOTAL: Patriots 6-4-1. OVERALL: PATRIOTS 11-8-3. And that's the way we've got the game ending, 11-8, New England. Sorry ... make that Patriots 34, Colts 24, for real.|
|Dr. Z's Breakdowns: Offense|