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Sports

January 16, 2007

Does it get any better than this? Patriots to face Colts at the right time

There are no gimmes in January in the National Football League.



But for some reason, at this time, in Sunday's (6:30 p.m.) AFC Championship game, the Indianapolis Colts fit perfectly in the New England Patriots playoff plans.



It's almost too good to be true. The Patriot fan in you says no. You want to be the heavy underdog, with no chance, a point Bill Belichick can drive home to his "disrespected" players.



Despite all the spin Belichick can and will muster this week, the Patriots have to love this matchup. Here's why:



Twice is nice



Indy's 27-20 win at Foxboro looks sweet on the resume, but the bottom line is Tom Brady threw four interceptions in that one, and Indy went all out to hang on for the victory. Unless you're the Denver Broncos, Brady and Belichick simply don't lose to a team twice in a season.



Cushiony soft



Imagine this weekend in Baltimore, cold and icy Baltimore, having to face the loudmouth but extremely physical Ray Lewis and company.



The concept of Joseph Addai indoors on artificial turf has to be a bit more comforting than the pounding a guy like Jamal Lewis can inflict.



Indy is just not a physical bunch. They are still a finesse team, a light team, despite a pair of solid defensive weeks.







Worried about Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney? They're not going to physically hurt you. And they had no bye week either.



The Colts are just as exhausted and beaten up as the Patriots are, possibly more.



Suspect secondary



The regular-season meeting aside - Brady was in a funk in that midseason stretch - No. 12 usually feasts on the Colts version of "cover 2" zone. Brady's innate ability to send the safety in the wrong direction with a look into his eyes is lethal. Don't believe it? Take a look at San Diego's safety on the 49-yard bomb to Reche Caldwell in Sunday's win over the Chargers. Brady almost steers him with his eyes to the left side, then turns to the right and fires to Caldwell in single coverage.



Of course, Brady has been doing that to the Colts for years now.



In eight games with Indy since Brady took over as the starter, New England has put up 29.0 points a game on the Colts.



Even with the four-pick game back in November, he's dominated the Colts defensive backs with 15 TD passes and eight interceptions.



Peyton just isn't Peyton



If back-to-back, vanilla "cover 2" defenses are going to keep Peyton Manning out of the end zone, what will Bill Belichick's ever-changing attack styles do to Manning?



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