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INDIANAPOLIS – Is the rivalry back on?

We will find out Thursday when the Colts and Patriots face off in Foxborough after a rare two-year hiatus from these ‘rivals’ meeting.

Here are 7 things to watch as the Colts take on the Patriots at 8:20 PM:

1. Embrace The Rivalry

-If I’m Frank Reich, I’d have Robert Mathis speak to the Colts prior to Thursday’s kickoff against the Patriots. Yes, this locker room has changed a ton from when this Colts/Patriots rivalry was truly a rivalry. Still, there’s venom in Indianapolis and that should be embraced by the Colts looking for any edge in Week Five. On the field though, the Patriots have thoroughly dominated the Colts in winning 7 straight meetings, by an average of 19 points per game.

2. Making Up For Hilton

-Thursday will be just the third game of T.Y. Hilton’s seven-year career that he has missed. Even though Bill Belichick has committed a good amount of resources to taking away Hilton, the perennial Pro Bowl receiver still has averaged nearly 70 receiving yards in 5 career games against the Patriots. Well, that attention is now going to be spread out across a depleted skill group. Will the Colts’ late-game success from the passing weapons against Houston be something we see more of on Thursday?

3. Disrupt Brady’s Timing

-It’s the accuracy of Tom Brady that truly amazes Frank Reich. Even if Rob Gronkowski doesn’t play on Thursday, the Patriots should have the services of Julian Edelman back after a four-game suspension. The Colts need to do a better job in coverage/rush, forcing Brady to adjust the rhythm that he typically has found against Indy defenses. Of course, the Colts will be down top cornerback Kenny Moore on Thursday.

4. Riding Luck

-Are the Colts really going to be down their starting left tackle (Anthony Castonzo), starting running back (Marlon Mack), No. 1 tight end (Jack Doyle) and No. 1 wide receiver (T.Y. Hilton) on Thursday? Castonzo is the only one listed as questionable. The other 3 have already been ruled as OUT. The Colts will be riding Andrew Luck majorly against the Patriots. Save for the last throw against the Texans, Luck was outstanding in banding that group together to come back from 11 points down, without Hilton, in the fourth quarter. That same sort of magic will be needed on Thursday.

5. Another Rookie Starter

With the tragic news surrounding Denzelle Good and the death of his brother on Tuesday, it’s looking like the Colts could very well have to turn to second-round pick Braden Smith at right tackle. There’s been so much chaos at right tackle this season. This truly unfortunate news could lead to Smith seeing his first significant NFL action. Smith played some right tackle in the month of August, but has been primarily a right guard in his rookie season. We will see if Smith is ready for a starting role, even though he’s been used in just 10 offensive snaps, as an extra offensive lineman, this season.

6. Find An Unusual Score

-When you are a double-digit underdog on the road, missing the sort of offensive personnel the Colts are on Thursday, you need quirky things to happen. It would be more than ideal for the Colts to find an early score, or at least a short field set up by their defense or special teams. It’s a lot to ask for, but something that will probably be needed if they want to pull off the upset.

7. Soak Up The Mini Bye

-The Colts are a banged-up football team. They really need an extended break at this time of the year. When you look at the rest of October after the Patriots, the Colts will have 3 games remaining before their bye week, going against teams that are a combined 3-9 right now (@Jets, Bills, @Raiders). It’s vital that the Colts get 2 of these 3 games if they want to return from their bye week with at least a chance to play meaningful football late in the season. Remember, the Colts are at home for all 3 of their November games.

Bowen’s Prediction: Patriots, 31-17. Although the Patriots have had blemishes through the first month of the season, it’s really hard to find a way the Colts steal this one. This might be the most depleted surrounding offense Andrew Luck has ever gone into a game with. Weird things happen on Thursday Night Football and the Colts will certainly have to find points via a big turnover or special teams play. With the Patriots ramping up their pass rush pressure last week, that even adds to the emphasis of the Colts finding a currently vacant run game. If the Colts can protect the ball early on and hang in their defensively, I could see them being within striking distance into the 4th quarter. But it won’t be enough. The Patriots will finally pull away late and the Colts will be 1-4 heading into their mini bye week.

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