The Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts at home in Gillette Stadium this afternoon; only it's not going to be the thriller that we have become accustomed to in the Brady-Manning Era. This game was originally on the bill for Sunday Night Football, but was flexed to 1pm when it became obvious that the Colts wold be in no kind of 'rivalry' with any teams this season. With the Colts sans Peyton Manning and staring down the barrel of a winless season, what is usually one of the best games of the season is more of a worn-down speed bump on New England's road to the postseason.
Keeping that in mind, it's hard to manufacture too much intrigue into this Week 14 match up. The Colts are 0-10, having lost to teams like the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers. In years past Manning alone could have carried his team to a victory over such sub-par squads, but this year the Colts have become target practice for rookie quarterbacks.
Normally this is the part where I would list the five or so things to watch for in the game, be it players or schemes or personnel decisions. But for the Patriots this week is simple: be dominant. It's sometimes hard to tell whether Indianapolis is as bad as they have looked, or if they just have no will to play any better. Not that either way really makes much of a difference. The Pats will be playing at home against a winless, Manning-less, beaten down, terribly coached team. If they don't win by three possessions it will be shocking.
Even with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis still threatening Tom Brady, the Colts should never have a shot in this game. Nevertheless, Brady himself made sure to point out this week that the pass-rushing duo have always been a menace and that he will be on full alert against them; per usual. The New England secondary also has a chance to step up and continue to develop against a struggling offense, and the defensive line should have a proverbial ball getting after Dan Orlovsky and/or barely serviceable Curtis Painter.
Despite the fact that anyone who can correctly identify the difference between a football and a tennis racket could tell you that the Patriots will win this game, Bill Belichick has been adamant in his assertion that they cannot underestimate the Colts. As he pointed out to the media on Wednesday at Gillette, excluding their starting quarterback the Colts have essentially the same team they did last year; and they are also a team that the Pats have lost to in five or their last seven meetings with them.
Normally Belichick's "any given Sunday our team can get their asses kicked and we have to prepare no matter what" attitude is expected, as well as admirable and practical. Yet while it remains practical and expected, I'm not sure that it is admirable. At this point it's obvious that the Patriots' practice squad could play a competitive game against the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.
Bill, you're not fooling anyone. You can, should and will win this game. And you'll win it handily.
My score prediction: New England Patriots-38, Indianapolis Colts-13