Saturday Night Football Preview: New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts

Saturday Night Football Preview


Line: Colts -2.5, Total: 45.5 


Going Streaking 

The New England Patriots are on a seven-game winning streak, which is the longest current streak in the NFL and tied with the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers for the longest streak this season. It’s an impressive streak, especially for a team that started 2-4, but this is not uncharted territory for the Patriots. In Tom Brady’s last full decade in New England, 2010-2019, the team achieved at least a 7-game regular season winning streak in eight of the 10 seasons. The only seasons that they did not were 2013 (longest streak was four wins) and 2018 (six-game streak). In half of the seasons in the 2010’s, New England recorded a win streak of at least 8 regular season games (four 8-game streaks and a 10-game streak). Interestingly, they did not win the Super Bowl in any of the seasons with an 8+ game streak. 

Six games have been the magic number for the team; in all six of their Super Bowl-winning seasons since 2000, they had a regular season winning streak of at least six games. In five of those six, the streak was either six or seven games (In 2003 they won 12-straight in the regular season en route to the title). This weekend, the Patriots will attempt to push the streak to eight straight, but that might portend to a poor ending; the last six seasons that the Patriots have had an 8-game winning streak or longer, they have failed to win the Super Bowl (’07, ’10, ’11, ’15, ’17, ’19). Conversely, in five of the last six seasons where their longest streak was between six and seven games, they went on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.  


Straight Up or Spread? Doesn’t Matter 

The Patriots have won seven games in a row, which you already know. But did you know that they also covered all seven of those games? Yes, the Pats are on a seven-game ATS winning streak after starting the season 2-4 vs. the number. They’ve also covered six straight against the Colts. Six of the past nine Patriots’ games have gone Over the total, and every Patriots vs. Colts matchup since 2009 has gone Over, as well (7 Overs, 0 Unders). 

Indianapolis is 8-5 ATS this season but have alternated wins and losses since starting 5-2 ATS (they covered last week against Houston). They have struggled at home, though, going 4-9 ATS inside Lucas Oil Stadium dating back to last season. The Colts have been a heavy Over team this season, with seven of their past ten going Over the total. 

While 56% of the bets are on the streaking Patriots, 71% of the money, including sharp action, is on the home favorite Colts according to Action Network. The same is true of the total, where 63% of the tickets are on the Over, but 89% of the money, including sharp, is on the Under. That money could help explain how books that opened this game prior to last weekend (Caesars and DraftKings) both had the Patriots favored at -1, but have both seen their lines flip to the Colts and currently sits at Indianapolis -2.5. 


Non-QB MVP? 

It’s extremely difficult for a non-quarterback to win the NFL’s MVP award – which has only happened once in the last 14 seasons (Adrian Peterson in 2012) – but Jonathan Taylor has as strong a case as anyone with what he has done so far in 2021. While it’s not likely to happen (he’s at +2000 odds currently, trailing seven quarterbacks including odds-on favorite Tom Brady who sits at -175), it warrants discussion. The Colts are 7-6 and Taylor’s rushing has been the biggest factor in determining their wins and losses. In games where Taylor has rushed for 100+ yards, Indianapolis is 7-0. In games where he rushes for fewer, they are 0-6. Taylor’s 1,348 rushing yards are nearly 300 more than the closest competitor (Joe Mixon has 1,036 yards on four more carries than Taylor) and he’s gaining yards that he’s not supposed to gain. Taylor has accrued 360 rushing yards over expectation (RYOE) this season, according to Next Gen Stats. The next closest is Nick Chubb at 185 RYOE, which is just over half of Taylor’s mark.  Taylor averages 1.5 RYOE per carry, also the highest mark in the league (no one else is higher than 1.1). 

He’s also the most efficient running back in the league, posting a 3.09 EFF rating, meaning he doesn’t gain extra yards by moving East-to-West … he’s a downhill back that does all his damage by daring defenders to bring him down – which they’ve had trouble doing. Taylor leads the league in yards after contact with 691 (next closest is Chubb with 528) and is tied for second with 19 broken tackles (Denver’s Javonte Williams leads with 30). He averages 2.9 yards after contact per rush, trailing only Chubb at 3.2. 

This is not to knock the Colts offensive line, which according to ESPN Analytics ranks tied for fifth in run block win rate at 72%. However, only one Colts offensive lineman ranks in the Top 10 at his position in RBWR and that’s tackle Branden Smith who is second among offensive tackles at 82% (Cleveland’s Jack Conklin is first at 83%). But Taylor’s abilities are special and he’s the NFL’s current touchdown leader with 18 total scores this season (16 rushing and two receiving). His 1,684 yards from scrimmage are 200 more than Cooper Kupp, who ranks second. The next-highest running back in scrimmage yards is Pittsburgh’s Najee Harris, who has 1,270 yards – more than 400 fewer than Taylor, and Harris has 20 more touches than Taylor. Among players who have at least 150 touches this season, only Taylor (6.1) and Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson (6.3) average at least six yards per touch. It’s a quarterback-driven league, but Taylor is doing everything he can to put himself in the conversation as the most valuable player to his team.

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