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2014 NFL Playoffs: 10 Bold Predictions for Patriots vs. Colts

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2014 NFL Playoffs: 10 Bold Predictions for Patriots vs. Colts

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts are set to meet yet again in the AFC Divisional Round on Saturday. This time, it won’t be a Tom Brady-Peyton Manning showdown. Instead, second-year quarterback Andrew Luck will come into Gillette Stadium in an attempt beat one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.

The Colts had one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round. Indy found themselves down 38 to 10 at one point in that contest, but then the Chiefs let Andrew Luck bring the Colts all the way back to win 45 to 44. Luck threw for 443 yards with four touchdowns, but Indy was extremely lucky to have won that game. The Chiefs could have easily wrapped it up, but poor coaching and lack of execution led to the Colts finding life. You can count on the Patriots-Colts game to be a totally different type of contest.

The last time the Patriots and Colts met was November of 2012 when the Patriots routed the Colts 59 to 24. Of course, the Patriots had a high-powered offense consisting of Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski back then, so don’t expect such a high-scoring offensive output. But do expect Tom Brady to be Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to be Bill Belichick. The question remains how far they can take this injury-infested team.

Since their last matchup in 2012, Andrew Luck and the Colts' defense have improved mightily while the Patriots' offense has struggled to find its stride this year and has taken a step back. It won't be a blowout like last time. Expect a closer, hard-fought game. Both teams’ best offensive weapons have torn ACLs. Gronkowski is gone for the Pats, and the Colts' top receiver Reggie Wayne is also down. Can Luck and T.Y. Hilton come out on top against Tom Brady and the Patriots? Which quarterback can lead his team to victory?

Here are 10 bold predictions for the Patriots-Colts contest.

Michael LeDuc is a Boston Celtics writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @mike_leduc, and add him on Google.

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10. Aqib Talib Will Shut Down T.Y. Hilton

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

T.Y. Hilton just had one of the best playoff receiving performances in history against the Chiefs. For some reason, Kansas City could not stop the only viable threat on the Indy offense, but don't expect the same against New England. The Patriots excel at shutting down the opponent's star player. Plus, Aqib Talib has gotten some rest and will be ready to shut him down. Expect four catches for 58 yards from Hilton.

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9. Patriots' Running Backs Will Combine for Over 150 Rushing Yards

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts ranked 26th against the run in the league. LeGarrette Blount, Week 17's AFC offensive player of the week, will be able to do a lot of damage to this Colts defense. This defense is also vulnerable against Stevan Ridley's style of run, so hopefully he can hold onto the ball. Shane Vereen will also get some touches. The Patriots' three-way running attack will prove extremely effective. Blount will have 11 attempts for 63 yards, Ridley will have 14 attempts for 77 yards and Vereen will have six attempts for 27 yards.

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8. Andrew Luck Will Throw 2 Interceptions

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots' defense is successful when it forces turnovers. For the past few weeks, turnover opportunities for the defense have been scarce. Andrew Luck is going to be a great quarterback, but he will make a couple of key mistakes in this game. The Patriots will shut down his favorite target, and Luck will not have many places to go. He is bound to make costly mistakes.

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7. Coby Fleener will be Most Productive Receiver

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With Hilton shut down, Coby Fleener will be Luck's go-to guy. Patriots will double-team Hilton and leave the tight end lightly covered. This will give Fleener some opportunities to do damage. However, it's a sacrifice the Patriots will be willing to make since Fleener is not as explosive as Hilton. Fleener will have seven catches for 81 yards.

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6. Luck Will Throw Under 250 yards

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Luck's offense struggled until the Chiefs laid off the gas pedal in the second-half of last week's Wild Card game. The Patriots are not going to let Luck just chuck the ball around. The Patriots' whole defensive game plan will be defending the aerial attack. It'll be more difficult for Luck to march the ball down the field this week, and he will throw under 250 yards. His 440-yard game will seem like a century ago.

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5. Donald Brown Will Rush for Over 100 Yards

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the defense focusing on the passing game, many opportunities will be created for Donald Brown. Brown has yet to rush for 100 yards this season, but that will change in this matchup. The Patriots are 30th against the run, and Brandon Spikes, their main run-stopper, is out. The Pats' defense will willingly let Brown run, knowing Luck is going to air it out eventually. Brown will run for over 100 yards for the first time this season, but will it be enough to keep up with the Pats?

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4. Shane Vereen Will Find the End Zone

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Vereen has been rather quiet since he broke out against the Cleveland Browns a few weeks ago. Defenses have been keying in him and limiting his production. Vereen will not be a factor yardage-wise, but he will score a key touchdown at some point in the game. He will end up with five catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.

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3. The Colts Will Not Sack Tom Brady

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The only way to beat Tom Brady is to put the pressure on him, but the Colts' defense will fail to affect Tom Brady with the pass rush. The successful running attack will offset the rush, and there will be many screen passes to receivers on the outside. The Colts' defense is not good enough to beat Brady, and the Patriots' offense will be efficient without any turnovers and no sacks given up.

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2. Julian Edelman Will Have 100-plus Receiving Yards

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Edelman is one of the only effective targets on the Patriots, so you might think the Colts will be able to zero in on him and shut him down. Wrong. Just ask Dwyane Bowe if the Colts had the ability to slow a top receiver down. The Colts' defense let Bowe catch eight passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. Expect similar numbers for Edelman. He will end up with nine receptions for 101 yards.

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1. Patriots Win 31-23

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Bill Belichick and the Patriots will not let the same thing that happened to the Chiefs happen to them. The Patriots have to ability to contain Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense. On the other hand, Tom Brady and the Patriots' running attack will be too much for the Colts' defense to handle. They allowed Alex Smith to pass for 378 yards and throw four touchdowns for crying out loud. Luck's time will come, but right now we're living in the Brady era. Patriots win 31 to 23.