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Week 11: Colts-Patriots preview

The SportsXchange

Indianapolis at New England

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. - TV: CBS; DirecTV: 711

*TV announcers: Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots

*Keys to the game: Interim head coach Bruce Arians sees this as a major litmus test for the young Colts in terms of how they handle an elite opponent on the road. Rookie QB Andrew Luck has shown a tendency to force more passes on the road, where he has two touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 66.2 passer rating. Indianapolis has 30-plus rushing attempts in five of its six victories, but that typically is a result of playing from ahead. It will be inherent upon Luck to make quick reads against Patriots coach Bill Belichick's scheme, and keep putting points on the board because New England can run away and hide in a blink. The Colts are banking on three extra days of rest to help after six starters sat out their Week 10 win. But while the Colts are allowing a respectable 350.6 yards per game, they haven't played a high-powered offense since Green Bay in Week 5. Patriots QB Tom Brady will spread the field and pepper the Colts' injury-plagued secondary with quick strikes and let his receivers do damage after the catch.

*Matchup to watch - Colts front seven vs. Patriots offensive line: Arians felt like his defensive line dominated the team's Week 9 victory over Jacksonville, and he was pleased with how effective the Colts' blitz packages were (two sacks and six quarterback hits). Replicating that effort won't be easy against a veteran quarterback who diagnoses defensive alignments in his sleep and has the quick-strike weapons to counter the blitz with.

*Player spotlight - Colts CB Darius Butler: Butler was a bust as a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2009. However, he has revived his career in Indianapolis to the point that Arians expects him to start even if Vontae Davis and/or Jerraud Powers return following Butler's two-interception game against Jacksonville.

*Fast facts: Luck has already rushed for five touchdowns, setting a franchise record for quarterbacks. ... Patriots WR Wes Welker has caught at least one pass in 103 consecutive games.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Colts' four-game winning streak is impressive, but it also came against the Browns, Titans, Dolphins and Jaguars. New England is nearly unbeatable at home, and QB Tom Brady can spread the field and dissect a pass defense that will be overmatched at every level.

*Our pick: Patriots 34-24
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