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    The Colts offense is starting to turn the corner and look more like what we expected it to as the various position groups get healthy. The wide receivers have been consistently a weakness , as we expected they might be, to some degree. However, what is becoming harder to ignore is just how good the tight end group is. The Colts tight ends account for 9 of Andrew Luck’s 20 passing touchdowns this season so far. What’s more shocking is that this has taken place with their best player at the position out with an injury. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesOver the past two seasons, Jack Doyle has proven to be a valuable and consistent contributor in the Colts’ offense, a player who can move the sticks as well as provide solid blocking in the running game. He has been Andrew Luck’s favorite target on those downs where they have to get a completion. With him absent, the Colts certainly felt the effects. Doyle was used heavily in the first two games as a blocker. The offensive line was decimated with injury and that resulted in the need to use him as a blocker more than a receiver. With his loss, the impact on the running game was felt immediately. Now however, with the offensive line clicking after Anthony Castonzo’s return, the running game is starting to get some traction. If Doyle is able to return following the Colts’ bye week, he provides yet another receiving threat to be paired with an already potent tight end group. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesJust how strong is this group? Well, Eric Ebron, the Detroit Lions’ first round “bust” that Chris Ballard signed in the offseason has already bested his career touchdown marker with 6—5 of which have come in the red zone. That number ties him for 2nd in the league in receiving touchdowns, trailing only the electric Tyreek Hill. The guy who would likely find himself the TE3 upon Jack Doyle’s return? That’s Erik Swoope. The Colts’ pet project, a basketball player converted to tight end, has bounced back and forth from the practice squad throughout the season. Even so, he has 7 catches on 8 targets. 3 of them are for touchdowns. That’s more than Zach Ertz Jack Doyle Jersey , Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Eiffert, or Jimmy Graham. I’m not sure how you can get better production out of your 3rd string tight end than that.Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesUnderstand, I’m not saying Swoope is better than those guys. What I’m saying is that we’ve got a coach who knows how to put tight ends in a position to win matchups, and we’ve got the tight end talent to do it. If Jack Doyle is able to return after the bye, this offense gets even more dangerous. Why, exactly? Because his return will let them run in 12 personnel with their best players on offense. 12 personnel just means 1 running back and 2 tight ends are in the formation. With such dangerous receiving threats at tight end and with a budding running attack, 12 personnel can prove to be an absolute nightmare for defenses to cover. With an extra tight end in the game, you have better blocking for your running backs. However, when your tight ends are also dangerous receiving threats, the defense can’t overplay the run, because a play action pass can kill them. Oh, and once you’ve covered them, you just have to deal with T.Y. Hilton, one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL.This is exactly the problem Frank Reich wants this offense to create for opposing defenses. If the offensive line can continue its run of excellent play and the running game can continue to be effective, that is exactly what the offense will do.For the Colts Authentic Adam Vinatieri Jersey , playing the Patriots isn’t just another game “It is just another game. ““You go into every game wanting to win.”“No, I don’t think we’ve treated this game any differently than any others on the schedule. “These are the lies you can expect to hear from players and staff in the next two days before the Colts kick off Thursday Night Football against the New England Patriots in Foxboro. Sure, like most lies, there are shades of the truth in them. You do go into every game wanting a win, and ultimately it isn’t a game of more significance in terms of this schedule or the way that playoff spots are handed out at the end of the season. At 1-3, there is little doubt that any game the Colts played this week would be of pretty great importance. However, if you think for a second that inside West 56th Street the Colts are treating this “just like any game,” you’re kidding yourself. The Patriots have been a stumbling block for the Indianapolis Colts since the Manning Era. During the 2000’s, the Patriots held the edge in their meetings with 8 wins to the Colts’ 6. It took Peyton Manning leading an epic comeback in the RCA Dome to get the Colts to a Super Bowl they would go on to win. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesEven back then, the Patriots owned the “rivalry.” With the arrival of Andrew Luck and a head coach who hailed from the Ravens, a team that had consistently given the Patriots trouble, Colts fans hoped we might be looking at an end to the one-sided affair. We couldn’t have been more wrong. In the five meetings between the Colts and Patriots since 2012, the Patriots have averaged 44.6 points per game. The Colts? Just 20. Chuck Pagano proved out of his depth. The defense couldn’t stop the Patriots and the offense couldn’t move the ball.The last time the Colts beat the Patriots on the road was twelve years ago, when the Colts and Peyton Manning were in their prime.Anyone who has ever played or coached a sport knows how significant the mental aspect of the game is. It is why we are spending so much time listening to the Colts talk about building a culture in their building. Because mentality, attitude, and team chemistry are often the difference between being a really talented team and being a championship team.How can the Colts adopt a winning mentality so long as the specter of the Patriots hangs over them? That’s what makes this game so important. The old Colts have always struggled with the New England Patriots. The new Colts under Frank Reich want to forge a different path Youth T.Y. Hilton Jersey , one that leaves that old struggle behind. To do that means facing down their demons. It means climbing out of the pit they were kicked down into, walking into the house of the enemy, and punching them in the mouth. It means gutting out a win, whatever it takes. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty ImagesThe staff will be motivated. We all know the story of how rising star defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus came to arrive in Indianapolis. It seems clear that this was good fortune for both he and the Colts, but there will be no love lost for the Patriots’ slimy offensive coordinator who orchestrated his hiring before bailing on the job. The defense will come to play. Frank Reich has already proven himself capable of outmaneuvering the Patriots’ defense, albeit with a healthier and overall better cast of players on offense.Chris Ballard set the expectation in his mic drop walk off after the press conference following the McDaniels’ news. “The rivalry is back on.”Simple words. They caused a plethora of reactions. Eyebrows were raised. Some scoffed. Others applauded. None of the reaction really matter that much, though, unless you back it up. Of course, Ballard was stating his intention to compete at the highest level. He wasn’t saying that he expected the Colts to go out and thrash the Patriots every time they play, but you can believe that is what he wants his team to do on Thursday night. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesHe’d like them to show Josh McDaniels what a bad decision he made to back out of that deal. He would like to show the NFL that he wasn’t messing around when he said those words. Most importantly of all, he’d like to see this team claw its way out from under the crushing weight of a fading giant and make its mark on the league as a team on the rise. To do so would be to take the first step to freeing this organization and its fan base from that feeling of fear and dread that comes from playing the Patriots. It takes a win against them before the Colts can start thinking of the Patriots as “just another opponent.” That’s why no matter what they say, this is not just another game.

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