Well, the AFC championship has come down to another matchup between perennial arch rivals, the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. The Colts are seeking their first Super Bowl appereance in franchise history – and, as has been the case for the past few seasons – the Patriots stand directly in their path of getting what they have worked so hard all season for.
New England, on the other hand, is seeking their fourth Super Bowl championship in the last six seasons and after a inconsistent start, are now playing their best football of the season.
Here is a look at the upcoming matchup, both point spreads and a prediction on the outcome of the game.
Indianapolis Colts (14-4)
All jokes aside, the Colts, who were been bounced from the playoffs by New England in both, 2003 and 2004, have finally set themselves up to overcome their frustrating postseason futility against the Patriots by beating the Baltimore Ravens on the road, giving them home-field advantage in this contest against the Patriots.
Although the Colts have actually won their last two games over New England, including a 27-20 victory in week 9, after dropping the six previous contests, this postseason game will bring out the very best in Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England Patriots.
Offensively, Indianapolis will try to do what they always do against every opponent – take whatever the defense gives them.
If that means Peyton Manning passing the ball repeatedly to his outstanding receiving core or running the ball a little more with surprising rookie, Joseph Addai, Indianapolis knows excatly what they want to do as they enter this crucial game.
Expect Manning to work the middle of the field with tight end Dallas Clark and to hit Addai out of the backfield as the Pats have made a habit of taking big play wideouts Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne out of the game.
Defensively, the Colts had better keep playing the outstanding run defense they have all postseason after fielding the worst run defense in the league during the regular season. If Indianapolis can bottle up Patriots running backs, Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney, then they should be able to unleash their fierce pass rush featuring defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, upon Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with some sort of regularity.
New England Patriots (14-4)
The Patriots enter this game riding high after their improbable road win over the top-seeded San Diego Chargers.
After an inconsistent start to the regular season, the Patriots have once again solidified at just the right time and will give the Colts everything they can handle in this game and then some.
Offensively, the Patriots will try to run the ball effectively with their running back tandem of Maroney and Dillon. However if they can’t (which seemed like a foregone conclusion for any Colts opponent this season) New England will rely on the right arm of Pro Bowl quarterback, Tom Brady.
As a matter of fact, they way the Patriots have moved the ball through the air this postseason, Belichick may want to throw the ball more than he normally likes to. In the last two weeks, Brady has connected with his two underrated and almost unknown wide receivers, Reche Caldwell and Jabbar Gaffney for 30 completions for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, New England will have their hands full trying to stop the potent Colts offense, which has made adjustments this postseason that they have never made before.
Defensive end Richard Seymour will need to have a monster game as will the entire Pats linebacking core. New England’s suspect secondary will also need big performances from safeties, Artrell Hawkins and James Sanders and cornerback, Asanta Samuel, who has been playing lights out as of late. However, if hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison can’t go in this one, that will be a huge advantage for Manning and the Colts offense.
The Line: New England +3 At Indianapolis Over/Under 48.5
The Colts are playing at home on their fast carpet, which should help Harrison, Wayne an the rest of the Colts’ receivers get some sort of separation from New England’s banged up secondary.
Let’s call it Indianapolis 31 New England 27, sending this game well over the low 48.5-point over/under.
I must have rocks in my head because I’m going to go with the Colts to not only win this one, but to cover as well. I know the Patriots and Bill Belichick have had Tony Dungy and Peytin Manning’s number these past few years, but I think this is Indy’s best chance to reach a Super Bowl and they are not going to blow it again. If the Colts can’t beat the Patriots this time, then they might just want to petition the league for a move to the NFC, where they won’t have to face the Pats in the playoffs every year – unless they reach the Super Bowl that is.