Thursday, January 9, 2014

Heavy rain, strong winds on tap for Saturday night at Gillette

Rob Ninkovich says he'd rather play in snow than in the rain, but rain - heavy, cold, and wind-driven - is what he and the rest of his New England Patriots will have to face this Saturday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Oh yeah, the Indianapolis Colts will cause a few issues, too.
Blount and the running game will be at a premium in the rain and wind

The Colts and the Hometown Pats will kick off their divisional round playoff game in conditions much the same as what the Patriots' experienced in their season-finale against Buffalo two weeks ago, something that doesn't sit well with Ninkovich.

"When you're in the rain, you're like 10 pounds heavier when your shoes are full of whatever," Ninkovich said. "The snow obviously has some challenges in itself with footing and being on the field and stuff like that, but when it's wet, you're wet from head to toe."

Rain is one thing, but when combined with sustained winds close to 20 miles per hour and gusting to over 30, it places a premium on the running game - as well as for getting a fast start and an early lead, as being forced to throw the ball to get back into a game is not an ideal scenario for conditions likely to be seen most of the day and into the nighttime hours.

Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady braved strong winds and much colder temperatures in late November when he staged perhaps the greatest comeback in franchise history, throwing two touchdown passes into the force of a driving, icy wind that Broncos' signal caller Peyton Manning couldn't handle.

It remains to be seen how Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck deals with the adverse weather conditions, but the volatility of the New England winter give the Patriots one of the best home field advantages in the league.

"We've played in it all, so it just helps us for whatever we're in, we're in. If it's snowing, if it's raining, we've experienced it all." Ninkovich said.

The forecast from the National Weather Service is calling for temperatures in the low 40's at gametime, with heavy rain and the afore mentioned gusty winds that will take the wind chill factor into the mid-20's by the 4th quarter.

The probability for poor throwing conditions puts a premium on the running game, where the Patriots have enjoyed a boon in recent weeks with running back LeGarrette Blount rumbling through the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills in successive weeks, while the Colts have relied on Donald Brown to carry the load.

But the key is how Luck and his receivers handle the wind and the rain. 

The football world already knows how Brady and the Patriots handle the conditions, so the pressure is all on Luck and the Colts' coaching staff to somehow level the playing field - but they have their work cut out for them as they are all about to find out why Gillette Stadium is such a tremendous homefield advantage for the Patriots.

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