We respect the Indianapolis Colts. They’re a solid organization with a smart, classy coach and one of the finest young quarterbacks in NFL history. The Colts have great helmets, and they play in a beautiful indoor stadium in the heart of one of America’s most underrated cities. They pummeled the vaunted Broncos, in Denver, to qualify for the AFC Championship game.
There. So much for the compulsories.
Now let’s get it over with and say what everyone, everywhere in football America is saying and/or thinking.
The Colts have no chance to beat the Patriots at Gillette Sunday night in Foxborough.
Sorry. I know the fanboys don’t like to hear this and I will be accused of recycling thoughts from previous years (when the themes change, the thoughts will change, promise), but everybody who is remotely paying attention knows what is going to happen.
I remember that the Patriots weren’t supposed to beat the Rams in February 2002, and the Red Sox were hopelessly defeated by the Yankees in 2004. I know that “that’s why they play the games.” All of that great “Hoosiers” stuff.
But deep down, you all know what’s going to happen Sunday in Foxborough.
Everyone from Forrest Gump to Forrest Gregg knows the Patriots are going to win.
I can’t wait to see the Sunday network panelists providing a rare moment of unanimity when they make their picks. Maybe crazy Mike Ditka will go off the rails and pick Indianapolis. Hope so, but I doubt it. I’m betting that even the hometown handicapping Indianapolis car dealers know the Colts are going to lose.
We knew the Ravens were going to be the toughest conference foe for the Patriots on their path to Super Bowl XLIX, and the Ravens turned out to be exactly who were thought they were. Baltimore played fearless Big Boy football. The Ravens gashed the Patriots and scared the frozen snot out of the Patriots and their fans.
But New England survived that game, and the reward is a conference championship layup . . . uncontested . . . with an 8-foot rim.
Coach Hoodie recognizes the demon of overconfidence. This is no doubt a tough week in Foxborough with Bill Belichick working overtime to sell the seriousness of the imaginary Indy threat.
“I don’t think any game in the past really has much application to this one,’’ Belichick said. Again. “So what happened some other year in some other game, I don’t care about. I don’t think it really matters.’’
Right. And this is where we are reminded that four years ago the Jets came to Foxborough and stunned the Patriots in the playoffs just five weeks after losing, 45-3, in New England.
Swell. But if you’ve been paying attention in recent years, you know that everything points to New England Sunday night. The Colts are accidental tourists in this AFC Championship. They beat the Cincinnati Bengals (always a playoff joke) and a Denver team that is — to put it politely — trending downward.
The Patriots are 3-0 vs. the Andrew Luck Colts, winning by three touchdowns or more on each occasion. They are averaging 39.1 points in their last seven meaningful home games (not Buffalo) and averaging a Wilt Chamberlainesque 48 points per game in their last three against these Colts.
The Colts give up yards on the ground. Every week. The Patriots ran for 246 yards in their Week 11 slaughter (42-20, ho-hum) at Indianapolis this year. Jonas Gray, a guy who could not start for his college team, ran for four touchdowns against the Colts.
When the Patriots spanked the Colts in the playoffs last year, it was LaGarrette Blount running for four touchdowns. Maybe Brandon Bolden gets his shot at four this Sunday.
Colts opponents scored touchdowns on 66.7 percent of their trips to the red zone this year. According to Sports Illustrated: “This is a defense that beats up on the meek and takes a beating from the elite.’’ The magazine also wrote that opposing defenses have no respect for the Colts’ “putrid running attack.’’
Meanwhile, Belichick owns Luck the way he owned a young Peyton Manning, the way he owned Drew Bledsoe. In three games against New England, Luck has eight interceptions to go with six touchdowns. The Patriots intercepted Luck four times in the playoff game at Gillette last year. Four of Luck’s six TD passes vs. New England came after the Colts fell behind by more than 10 points.
The Colts were 2-4 against playoff teams during the regular season. That includes a win over Cincinnati, which always requires an asterisk.
Things have fallen New England’s way. As usual. On a day when the Dallas Cowboys are sitting at home, the Patriots get to play the Indianapolis Colts for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
Enjoy the game. But deep down, we all know the Patriots won the AFC championship last weekend.