FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots will open postseason play against the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, the start of another hopeful Super Bowl run for the NFL’s most experienced active head coach and playoff quarterback.
Bill Belichick, in his 39th season, will be seeking his 19th postseason victory against the Colts, a team that is led by the second-year tandem of head coach Chuck Pagano and quarterback Andrew Luck. The two are 0-1 against the Patriots, losing big last season in a regular season matchup, 59-24.
This Colts team has grown since that time.
“I think you’d have to say we’ve made progress,” Pagano told New England reporters. “Again, we’ve had some really good wins, and then we’ve had some disappointing losses this season. But the one thing that this group has done, and I think it’s because of players like Andrew and our veteran leadership, guys like Robert [Mathis] and Reggie [Wayne], even though Reggie’s been out since the Denver game, and Antoine Bethea and Adam Vinatieri and Cory Redding and all those guys. We’ve got great vets in the locker room, and whether it’s a big win or a disappointing loss, they’ve been sticking to the process and put it behind them and move on to the next game. So from that standpoint we’ve matured, and guys have a better understanding of what we want to get done in all three phases.”
The Patriots will have to go ahead without rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson. Dobson, who was seen in a walking boot this week, was ruled out Friday with a foot injury.
New England has played four games without Dobson this season, winning three of those contests. It’ll be another opportunity for top receivers Julian Edelman (105 receptions, 1056 yards) and Danny Amendola (54 receptions, 633 yards) as well as fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins (32 receptions, 466 yards), who was listed as questionable with a hip injury, to make their mark.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder) was listed as questionable while nine other Patriots players were listed as probable.
The Colts, coming off a stunning 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round, will be working without one of their top receivers as well. Darius Heyward-Bey was ruled out on Friday after missing the entire week of practice with a hamstring injury. Four other players, including safety LaRon Landry and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, were listed as probable.
This is the fourth time Brady has faced the Colts in the playoffs, winning two of three times. He’s 10-4 against Indianapolis all-time. Brady will be looking for his 18th playoff win. His 17 postseason victories are the most in NFL history for a starting quarterback.
Here are the details for the game:
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m.
Records: Patriots 12-4 regular season; Colts 11-5 regular season (1-0 postseason).
TV, radio: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf, Allie LaForce); 98.5 FM The Sports Hub (Bob Socci, Scott Zolak); Westwood One (Ian Eagle, Trent Green, Tony Boselli).
Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injury reports.
Patriots offense: WR Kenbrell Thompkins, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, WR Julian Edelman, QB Tom Brady, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Danny Amendola.
Patriots defense: LE Rob Ninkovich, DT Sealver Siliga, DT Chris Jones, DE Chandler Jones, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Dane Fletcher, LB Jamie Collins, CB Aqib Talib, CB Alfonzo Dennard, S Devin McCourty, S Steve Gregory.
Colts offense: WR T.Y. Hilton, LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Hugh Thornton, C Samson Satale, RG Jeff Linkenbach, RT Gosder Cherilus, TE Coby Fleener, WR Da’Rick Rogers, QB Andrew Luck, FB Stanley Havili, RB Donald Brown.
Colts defense: DE Cory Redding, NT Aubrayo Franklin, DT Ricky Jean Francois, SLB Erik Walden, MLB Kelvin Sheppard, WLB Jerrell Freeman, RUSH Robert Mathis, LCB Darius Butler, SS Antoine Bethea, FS LaRon Landry, RCB Vontae Davis.
– Which Patriots CB should be matched up on Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton? Well, Erik Frenz examined that very issue.
– As the Patriots face the Colts Saturday evening, see what play the Patriots are most likely going to run with our play-predictor.
– Follow the game and comment on the action in our live blog.