Patriots look out of Luck

  • By: David John
  • Last Updated: November 16 2012, 17:41 GMT

Rookie sensation Andrew Luck can inspire in-form Indianapolis again on the road at New England on Sunday.

Andrew Luck: Can star again for the Colts

Green Bay at Detroit (1800GMT)

The Packers are back off the bye week and go into battle without inspirational linebacker Clay Matthews, who is sidelined with a hamstring problem.

He is their best defensive player and head coach Mike McCarthy said: "I don't think you can measure what Clay Matthews means to you football team," but that does not stop me fancying the visitors at 4/7 for victory.

The reason - Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay's quarterback has a 6-1 record against the Lions and seems to be hugely motivated when he faces this particular divisional rival.

Some observers seem to think he has a chip on his shoulder that comes from draft day as he slipped right down to number 24 in the first round - with Detroit one of the teams that passed on his services.

But whatever it is, Green Bay have won 20 of the last 23 clashes with the Motor City and Rodgers looks like improving that statistic further.

Despite a slow start to the campaign and having to deal with injuries to top receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, Rodgers has his side on a four-game winning streak that has hauled them back into the play-off scene.

Their rivals have been one of the disappointments of the season and have dropped to 4-5 on the campaign after losing last week to Minnesota.

Their defense has improved a little in recently but those closest to the team believe their lack of commitment to the running game has given opposing teams the chance to zone in on the passing attack.

Matthew Stafford has passed up to 50 times a game and with top target Calvin Johnson battling a knee problem, it has been easier for smart defenses to shut them down.

The Lion should have the right mindset going into a game of this nature but I just wonder whether they will all pull in the right direction when push comes to shove.

So take the unflappable Rodgers to shine again and back Green Bay straight up in the win market.

Indianapolis at New England (2125GMT)

The duo have fought out some memorable encounters over the last decade or so and this has the look of another intriguing match-up.

The Colts are now well into the Andrew Luck era after drafting the former Stanford quarterback number one in April and it is fair to say he has already exceeded expectations.

They have already won six of their nine games this season - four more than all of 2011 - and are well in the hunt for a potential play-off berth.

Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne may be one of the only players to make the transition from the Peyton Manning glory days but Luck seems to be getting the most out of a rather underwhelming group on offense.

His own athleticism has also been a key point this season with an ability to move around in the pocket, pass on the run and also get in the end zone (five rushing touchdowns) all making him look like the franchise player the Colts had hoped (and dreamed) for.

They should be nicely rested up after proving way too good for Jacksonville last week and the added time they have had off means that defensive end Robert Mathis will return from injury - as he and Dwight Freeney go in pursuit of opposing quarterback Tom Brady for the umpteenth time in their career.

All the above leads me to think that they certainly have at very least a fighting chance to beat the Patriots with a 9.5-point start on the handicap.

The Pats continue to thrive on offense with 430.3 total yards per game and an average of 33.2 points but their woeful defense remains one to be exploited.

They have allowed 18 opposing touchdowns already and in a bid to shore up their secondary, have picked up classy cornerback Aquib Talib this week.

He is set to start but how ready he will be remains to be seen and despite the Patriots enjoying a three-game winning streak to put them in charge of the AFC East, that little run has been against teams with a losing record and they certainly made hard work of beating the very average Buffalo Bills in week 10.

The Colts are better then them and deserve respect so should make an impact with the points. Top up the profits as well with a bet on the speedy Donnie Avery to score a touchdown at anytime.

He has just one venture into the end zone so far this season but can stretch the hosts' defense and should make a viable target opposite Wayne for Luck to look to.

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