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Oddly enough, the odds are against a blowout

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / November 30, 2011
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The Patriots were rightfully installed as 20 1/2-point favorites for Sunday’s game against the Colts, who are 0-11 without injured quarterback Peyton Manning.

The line may grow now that Dan Orlovsky has supplanted Curtis Painter at quarterback, and defensive coordinator Larry Coyer was fired and replaced by linebackers coach Mike Murphy.

Even still, the point spread is eye-opening. According to the Indianapolis Star, it is the largest spread the Colts have faced since their relocation to Indianapolis in 1984.

And, historically, it is not good news for the Patriots.

New England was last favored by 20 points or more during the perfect 16-0 regular season of 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal and Pregame.com.

And each time they were, they did not cover those spreads.

The Patriots were favored by 20 over the Ravens and won by 3 points.

Against the Jets, it was 21 and they won by 10.

The spread was 22 against the Dolphins. They won by 21.

And they won by just 3 against the Eagles despite being 23-point favorites.

Are we looking at the same type of situation this Sunday? Quite possibly, because much of the Colts’ struggles have come at the quarterback position.

If Orlovsky can give the Colts anything, the Patriots should still emerge with a win, but it could be competitive for a bit.

A closer look at the Colts:

Quarterback: Orlovsky, who starred at Connecticut, will be starting for the first time since the 2008 season, when he played for the 0-16 Lions. He is tall (6 feet 5 inches) but slow of foot with a long delivery.

Running back: With Joseph Addai battling injuries, Donald Brown has received most of the work and done a nice job with 76 rushes for 356 yards (4.7-yard average) and three touchdowns. It’s just that everyone stacks the box, so there isn’t much room to run. Brown had 80 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers.

Receivers: The Colts still have talent here, even without tight end Dallas Clark, who has been inactive with a leg injury the last two games. They have Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, and Austin Collie - if someone can get them the ball. Wayne had 122 yards and a touchdown on five receptions against the Panthers to post his first 100-yard game since Week 1.

Offensive line: The Colts have started the same line the last three games: left tackle Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), left guard Mike Tepper, center Jeff Saturday, right guard Ryan Diem, and right tackle Jeff Linkenbach. They have been solid in pass protection - Linkenbach is the weakest player - but have struggled in the run against the stacked box. Saturday is still an elite player and can control the game up front.

Defensive line: Any team with Dwight Freeney (five sacks) and Robert Mathis (six) on the ends is trouble. They were in the face of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton all day. Fili Moala and Antonio Johnson are OK inside, but the Colts really miss the injured Eric Foster and Drake Nevis against the run. End Tyler Brayton has shown some pass-rush ability. Jerry Hughes, the 2010 first-round pick, has not.

Linebackers: Pat Angerer, who was inserted into the lineup when Gary Brackett was lost for the season, flies around the field at middle linebacker and plays the pass well. He struggles against the run. Philip Wheeler is the strong-side linebacker and is really good against the run but comes off in sub packages. Kavell Conner starts on the weak side and shares time with Ernie Sims, who is the coverage linebacker.

Secondary: Right cornerback Jerraud Powers is the standout in this group. He has been shadowing the top receivers, so he could be asked to do that against Wes Welker. Kevin Thomas starts at left cornerback with Jacob Lacey in the mix. Antoine Bethea is still the free safety and quick to support the run. David Caldwell starts at strong with Joe Lefeged rotating in. Both have struggled against the pass.

Special teams: Kicker Adam Vinatieri needs no introduction and is still performing at a high level. Pat McAfee is outstanding on punts and kickoffs.

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