This is no fun at all.
Here comes the shell of what used to be the Indianapolis Colts, a franchise once the closest entity to an archenemy that the New England Patriots have had during their extended dynasty.
Ever since Peyton Manning left, though, the Colts have been a nuisance more than anything. In the Andrew Luck era, Indianapolis has been little more than irritating, nagging for the Patriots’ attention while New England is more occupied with winning the AFC.
Deflategate was a fun exercise for the Colts to get into, particularly considering that since that time the Patriots have won a pair of Super Bowls while the Colts have crumbled under the physical well-being of the quarterback they still assume is the guy they wanted.
But these days the franchise is just a sorry dump, one notoriously eschewed by Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels once he was wise enough to look under the hood.
Luck has looked about as good as can be expected coming back from injury, but he often still plays like he’s in desperate need of a discreet scroll through the nutritional contacts in Manning’s phone. Going from Bob Kraft to Jim Irsay would have been like scrapping a five-star Tahitian hotel for camping in an IHOP rest room. And at 1-3, the Colts are more destined to battle for the No. 1 pick than they are a playoff spot anytime soon.
The Colts used to be fun to dislike. Now they’re just a doorstop to Kansas City.
“The rivalry is back on,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard bellowed at the end of a press conference when he had to explain why McDaniels came to his right mind earlier this year. The comment generated some laughter.
Not as much as it does now though.
Some rivalries come and go. This one died in 2010, the last year Manning mattered in Indianapolis.
The only rivalry that exists these days is watching bettors determine if the Patriots can account for the over on their own terms.
This week’s picks.
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 34, Colts 20. “The Miami Dolphins and their fans could catch an early Week 5 break if the division-nemesis Patriots would be kind enough to lose at home Thursday night, but that would take a whole lot of Luck — Andrew and otherwise. This was a stout rivalry back when Peyton Manning was steering the Colts. No more. New England has won seven in a row in the series, Tom Brady is 5-0 vs. Luck, and Foxborough towers as NFL’s most reliably impenetrable home fortress. Rob Gronkowski (ankle) could be a game-time decision for Pats, but that’s offset by Brady getting back Julian Edelman from suspension. Indy’s injury woes are worse, led by top receiver T.Y. Hilton out of FIU being very iffy to go. Colts are tempting ‘dogs getting double-digit points because they aren’t awful (could easily be 3-1) and mainly because Luck will throw a thousand passes. But I’m banking on Pats being two TDs better on the wing of a breakout game by Brady.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 33, Colts 20. “This game has the look of a blowout to me. The Colts are banged up in the secondary and Tom Brady playing in prime time will show he’s still one of the best. Andrew Luck won’t be able to keep up.”
CBS Sports staff: All New England (Patriots -10).
Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Patriots 37, Colts 24. “The Patriots are a different team at home. After losing back-to-back road games, they pummeled the previously unbeaten Dolphins, 38-7, at Gillette Stadium. Meantime, the Colts have lost their past two games by a combined seven points, including in overtime to the Texans.”
David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 31, Colts 23. “Speaking of rematches, it’s the AFC title game revisited! From the 2014 season, that is, the notorious beginning of Deflate-gate. Also, it’s their first meeting since Fake Punt-a-Palooza in the 2015 season, until this past Sunday the undisputed worst coaching decision in at least the team’s Indianapolis era. More drama? When Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels faded the Colts after agreeing to coach them last offseason, general manager Chris Ballard declared, “The rivalry is back on.” Here’s to the Colts making that true, on a short week, against a Patriots team that gets back Julian Edelman but might be missing Rob Gronkowski (ankle).”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 34, Colts 20. “Andrew Luck is doing his best to keep it together with his offensive tackles and top tight end hurting with no running game. But with T.Y. Hilton hamstrung and not looking good to play on a short week, the Colts are much easier to defend. Indianapolis’ defense has played over its head, but New England will beat it up with its running game and a few deep shots from Tom Brady, who gets Julian Edelman back from suspension this week.”
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: New England (-10). “For the first time all year, a Thursday night game might actually resemble … a Thursday night football game. The Colts are without their best offensive player, and they’ll all be a little bit googly-eyed as they still work to get over what their coach did to them in overtime on Sunday. Their coach is also four games deep into his NFL head coaching career and has to face Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on a short week.”
SB Nation staff: All Pats.
Nick O’Malley, MassLive: Patriots 30, Colts 17. “The Patriots are looking better on both sides of the ball and appear to be in rebound mode. I’ll place my bet on Belichick getting a gameplan in place to piece together a way to dispatch the new-look Colts.”
Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Patriots 27, Colts 17. “Welcome back, Pats. Week 4’s shellacking of the Dolphins restored order in the AFC. Indy’s defense has been strong, and Andrew Luck is coming back into his own. But this is a tough chore for a young team on a short week.”
FiveThirtyEight: New England with an 83 percent chance of winning.
It says here: Patriots 34, Colts 6. When’s baseball?