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Analysis: Closer look at Colts’ addition of Deion Branch, Patriots’ decision to place Brandon Spikes on IR

01.06.14 at 5:06 pm ET
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Even though the Patriots were off on Monday, it still was an eventful afternoon around Gillette Stadium.

First, it was announced the Colts signed former New England wide receiver Deion Branch. The veteran pass catcher, who made his bones for the better part of seven years with the Patriots, did have a tryout with the Colts earlier this season, so it wasn’t all that big a surprise, but the move still adds some juice to an already interesting divisional playoff showdown between New England and Indy this weekend.

It remains to be seen how much Branch still has left in the tank. The 34-year-old was on the shelf all year after ending the 2012 season with the Patriots — a year when he had 16 catches for 145 yards — and the fact that he’s coming into a new system likely means the learning curve is steep. Even armed with his smarts, it’s not likely he’ll have that much of an impact when New England and Indy take the field this weekend.

Where Branch could help is as an unofficial sounding board for the Indianapolis coaching staff and players when it comes to New England’s offensive tendencies. It’s always debatable about what sort of impact a player like that could have — it’s important to remember that the play calls, schemes and packages vary from week-to-week, let alone year to year. However, Branch was one of quarterback Tom Brady‘s closest and most trusted teammates when the receiver was in New England — the Colts believe he may have some minor knowledge of Brady’s style, however minute, that could help Indy gain a small edge when it comes to this weekend’s action.

Second, the Patriots placed linebacker Brandon Spikes on season-ending injured reserve later Monday afternoon with a knee injury. The 26-year-old, who was a second-round pick out of Florida in the 2010 draft, was accorded as one of the best run-stoppers in the league — the analytical site Pro Football Focus had him rated as one of the best defenders against the run over the last two years, giving him a +11.6 grade as a run defender in 2013. This season Spikes played in all 16 games with 12 starts in the regular season and finished with 134 total tackles. Overall, the 6-foot-2, 255-pounder has played in 51 games with 40 starts during his NFL career and has registered 384 total tackles. He has also played in six postseason games with five starts and accumulated 45 total tackles.

However, he has been battling a knee injury all year, and in an interview with Shalise Manza-Young of The Boston Globe earlier this season, Spikes announced that he would have to undergo knee surgery at the end of the year to deal with the issue. Spikes, who’s contract is up at the end of the 2013 season, now heads into free agency as one of the great debates of the offseason — when healthy, he’s been one of the best run-stoppers in the league. At the same time, he has struggled in coverage and has yet to display the needed consistency when it comes to health. (The 2013 season marked the first time in his four-year career he was able to play all 16 regular-season games.)

For the defense as a group, it’s yet another blow to a squad that already is dealing with the loss of several impact players, including defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and linebacker Jerod Mayo. It’s expected that more responsibility will be placed on the shoulders of rookie Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher and Dont’a Hightower the rest of the way.

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