Willie McGinest. David Patten. Bill Polian. Mike Vanderjagt. Marlin Jackson. Fourth-and-two.
Greatest rivalry in sports?
It’s not really a question, is it?
This week’s picks:
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 30, Colts 24. “Peyton Manning has thrown five touchdown passes in his past five games. His Jimmy Clausenish passing line against the very mortal Bengals D last Sunday: 20 of 36, 185 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, two sacks, 69.8 rating. Not saying he can’t rise to the occasion in Foxboro the way he did in the two-minute drill last year in Indy, but it’d surprise me if he did.”
ESPN.com staff: Seven out of eight pick the Patriots.
Indianapolis Star staff: Four out of four pick the Patriots. Bob Kravitz: “Did you see what the Patriots did to the Steelers in Pittsburgh? I’ve watched enough football to know that one week doesn’t necessarily translate to the next week (i.e.,: the Pats losing to Cleveland one week earlier), but the Patriots look right now like the best team in football. And let’ be honest: This isn’t the kind of Colts team that usually heads into lovely Foxborough. Unless about six guys have miracle recoveries and return to action, I don’t see how the Colts pull this one off.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 33, Colts 27. “Peyton Manning against Tom Brady is always a treat. Manning against Bill Belichick is as well. But the Colts have struggled on offense recently. They are missing key pieces. Even so, the Patriots are vulnerable to the passing game, ranked 30th in the league. I look for Manning to have a good day. Problem is, so does Brady. And in the end, I think Brady at home will outscore Manning.”
CBS Sports.com staff: Four out of five pick the Patriots.
Sporting News staff: Patriots across the board.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 27,Colts 21. “After losing six straight to the Pats from 2001 through 2004, the Colts have taken five of six from New England. It?s time for a correction, especially since this year?s version of the November sweeps special will be played in Foxboro. The Pats looked as potent as ever in Pittsburgh, and the Colts couldn?t deliver the knockout punch to a staggering Bengals team.”
Gregg Rosenthal, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 34,Colts 31. “This game never gets old. Even though the last five meetings have been decided by one score, the Colts have won five of the last six meetings. Something has to give because Tom Brady has won 24 straight starts at home, one away from Brett Favre?s record. Take away all the history and you see New England?s passing attack is operating more efficiently. The Colts? offensive line is shakier than usual and Peyton Manning is averaging 5.65 yards per attempt in his last 3 games. I like the Pats just a bit more on grass. [Editor’s note: Rosenthal is not claiming that the Patriots are “on grass.” We think.]”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 38, Colts 31. “Fisticuffs erupted in the Game of the Week committee meeting when possibly inebriated proponents of Giants-Eagles began swearing like Rex Ryan and throwing furniture. But ultimately cooler heads — and Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady — prevailed. Doesn’t it always have the heft and feel of an AFC Championship Game when these two go arm to arm? I try to never underestimate Manning, who has won his past two games in Foxborough and who holds the NFL record with 32 300-yard games on the road, including four of five this season. But the English are healthier, 4-0 at home and, for my money, the Brady Bunch might be best team in NFL at the moment in a very muddled year.”
Pete Schrager, Foxsports.com: Patriots 30, Colts 27 “Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -numbers 7 and 21, respectively, on NFL Films’ recent “Top 100″ all-time players list – are in the midst of arguably the very best campaigns of their pro careers this season. In Sunday’s 23-17 Colts win over Cincinnati, Manning’s offensive weapons included such NFL luminaries as tight ends Jacob Tamme (who?) andGijon Robinson (who?), undrafted rookie Brandon James (who?), second-year running back Donald Brown and an undrafted running back named Javarris James. Brady, meanwhile, led the Pats to 39 points against the league’s top defensive unit, including three touchdown passes to rookie Rob Gronkowski. This annual pre-Thanksgiving battle always comes down to the final minute. Gimme the Patriots at home with Brady saving his best for last.”
Dave Goldberg, NFL FanHouse: Patriots 27, Colts 21. “This one has a history, too — this will be the 11th meeting in eight seasons, a bundle for
teams that aren’t in the same division any longer. And like Pittsburgh-Oakland, there’s history, like Bill Belichick going for it on fourth down to keep Peyton off the field last season. Didn’t work, and the Pats lost for the fourth time in the last five meetings. Not this time with most of Peyton’s weapons injured.”
USA Today staff: Six out of eight pick the Patriots.
Yahoo! sports staff: New England across the board.
We like: Patriots 34, Colts 27. If the playoffs started today, the Patriots – tied with the Jets and Falcons for the best record in the NFL – would remarkably be the fifth seed in the AFC, and headed on the road for a wild card game. After Sunday, that scenario could remain the same, but the Colts, with a loss, would move into a three-way tie for first in the South with the Titans (vs. Washington) and Jaguars (vs. Cleveland). In fact, no division-leader in the NFL has more than a one-game lead, and divisions have ties at the top. There is no clear-cut favorite, but after these back-to-back weeks, the Patriots will stake that claim.