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INDIANAPOLISPatriots week is here.

Saturday night will change the Colts’ now promising playoff hopes by about 40 percent, depending on win or loss.

Here are some takeaways from the Colts (7-6) returning from their bye week on Tuesday with 4 games remaining this season:

  • Ryan Kelly was back from COVID on Tuesday, practicing on a limited basis as he ramps up his conditioning. Officially, it was a 10-day absence for Kelly. Due to the bye week, Kelly actually didn’t miss any practice time but did miss the Texans game. Kelly said he had some mild symptoms but was back to his normal self after a few days. Kelly returning is massive, because pre-snap identification between him and Carson Wentz is monumental in facing a Bill Belichick defense.


  • With ramped up COVID numbers around the NFL right now, Frank Reich talked to his team on Tuesday about the need for heightened protocols. Now that Kelly is off the COVID list, LB-Zaire Franklin is the only Colts player on the list after his positive test in returning from the bye week. Franklin is vaccinated, so his return could still happen this week. Reich said there’s no worry about other Colts being close contacts with the Franklin news, which makes sense because guys were scattered across the country during the bye week.


  • “It’s an opportunity to prove that we belong,” is how Ryan Kelly described what is at stake on Saturday night. Kelly is exactly right in acknowledging the magnitude of Saturday’s contest. With a win, the Colts will have to fall on their face to not make the playoffs. With a loss, the Colts would have to win their final 3 games (@Cardinals, Raiders, @Jaguars) or else need tons and tons of help to make the postseason.


  • A huge philosophical debate for Frank Reich this week is how long do you stay with your strength if Bill Belichick takes that away? Carson Wentz talked on Tuesday about the feeling out process you get early in games with the Patriots. There’s a fine balance with that and sticking to your scripted game plan, which is an area the Colts have routinely turned into points. Will the Patriots be able to limit Jonathan Taylor, despite having a rather middle of the pack run defense? If so, how will the Colts passing offense handle things? On paper, the Colts top-ranked rushing offense should be able to move it against he Patriots.


  • After a promising training camp, rookie wideout Mike Strachan has not played for the Colts since Week 9. He’s played a total of 10 offensive snaps since Week 2. On Tuesday, Frank Reich shared his thoughts on Strachan’s rookie season: “It’s been good,” Reich said of Strachan’s first year jump from the Division II level. “He’s continuing to do a good job on the scout team and in drills. He’s working hard. We are very high on him. Things have been going pretty well at that position for us. We have confidence in him that if for some reason someone got dinged, Mike would be ready to go. We have the confidence that he could go play winning football. Reich said Strachan’s lack of a presence on special teams has played into his inactivity on game days. Still, the trust in other wideouts with the playbook has been a factor, too. “(The special teams) is part of it,” Reich said. “We need that No. 4, 5 receiver to contribute significantly to teams, ideally.”


  • Is it a rivalry? The Colts certainly haven’t done their part in holding up that end of things with the Patriots. The Colts have lost 8 straight to the Patriots, by an average of 18 points per game. The last win for Indianapolis in this series was in 2009 (the ‘4th-and-2’ game at Lucas Oil Stadium).


  • Only one Colts player has played for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. And that was Kenny Moore having an off-season stint there as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Moore was cut by the Patriots at the end of his rookie preseason, but left an impression on Belichick. Back in the 2018 meeting between the Colts and Patriots, I asked Belichick for his thoughts on Moore. “Kenny is a good football player,” Belichick said. “He is a very instinctive guy. He has a real good feel for routes and anticipates route combinations. He sees the quarterback and sees the ball well. He has good hands. He is able to play inside and outside, which he has done for the Colts. He plays on the perimeter and then he moves inside and plays nickel in their sub situations. Again, I think that speaks to his intelligence, instincts and awareness. He is a tough kid and is a good tackler. That enables him to play inside and also be part of the Cover 2 scheme that they use to jam receivers and get involved in a lot of runs and perimeter tackling plays. So yeah, I like Kenny and really respect how hard he works. He is one of those guys that came into the league without a lot of notoriety but has earned a spot in the National Football League and has continued, I’m sure, on a daily basis to work hard to maintain that. We’ve got a lot of our guys on our team like that and it’s one of the things that attracted us to him. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep him on the active roster. (He) was a good pickup for the Colts and there is a lot of guys like that in the league. I think he is a good poster boy for that type of unheralded guy that comes in and works hard and earns it. So, I’ve been impressed with him. I was impressed when we had him and watching on film, he is a good player. He’s done a good job for the Colts.”


  • Some notes on the much-talked about Patriots defense: 3rd in total defense, 1st in scoring defense, 19th against the run, 2nd against the pass. Offensively, the Patriots are middle of the pack in many categories. Also, Patriots kicker Nick Folk has made 52 straight field goals inside of 50 yards. The Patriots have won 7 straight games and a perfect 6-0 away from home this season.


  • While the Colts have been one of least penalized teams in the NFL this season, that number could very well rise on Saturday night. The officiating crew will be Carl Cheffers, who is one of the more flag-happy crews in the NFL, particularly in the pass interference department. This is something to note for all parties involved.


  • Bobby Okereke was not spotted during the open media portion of Tuesday’s practice.


  • The Colts have bumped up their normal practice schedule this week (normally Wednesday-Friday) by a day, due to playing on Saturday. They’ll have a Friday walk-through before hosting the Patriots at 8:15 PM on Saturday.

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