When the New England Patriots joined the AFC East in 1970, they won two games and the Baltimore Colts won Super Bowl V after two losses all season.
Since then, the Patriots have mostly dominated the rivalry, even after the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 and out of their division in 2002. They hold a 42-28 lead on the series and have outscored them more than any other opponent. New England has also won two of the three playoff games between the teams.
Indianapolis has won five of the last six games of a very underrated rivalry that is still going strong. The teams have faced each other in each of the past ten seasons, and the franchises have gone to eight Super Bowl games between them since this rivalry was forged.
Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was recently heard attempting to pump up his team by proclaiming the season hangs in the balance over the result of their match up with New England this Sunday. While Colts general manager Bill Polian said it is presumptuous to assume either team is headed to the playoffs this year, Caldwell’s angle behind his push is understandable.
Indianapolis is hanging by a thread right now because several key players are hurt and the depth has failed to step up. Many critics feel the opportunities for quarterback Peyton Manning having a realistic shot at another championship ring are coming to an end.
New England has tried to win this year with a young secondary and vague running attack. They have found themselves relying on halfback Danny Woodhead, a diminutive player who has been a nice surprise after having been buried on the New York Jets bench the previous two years.
What both teams have are quarterbacks headed for induction into Canton one day. They have led teams that have the best record in the NFL the past decade. The quarterbacks hold too many records to list, and appear in the prime of their careers this season as they are legitimate MVP candidates this season.
What they both want is home field advantage in the playoffs. The Colts are a dome team who are their best on the fake grass. Brady has enjoyed the confines of his turf that have seen him set league records with 10 consecutive post season wins and 21 consecutive wins in the NFL.
Polian is right in that no fan should assume the result of this game guarantees the victor home field advantage, let alone entry into the playoffs. Nor does it end the losers season with 17 teams now within two games of the top record in the league.
Fans look at the past events that also heavily involve the quarterbacks of present. Men considered the unquestioned leaders of their respective locker rooms. Though this game decides nothing, it will go a long way in stroking the egos on the side of the winning team.
Oakland Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Did Al Davis and Dave Casper run down to the Raiders practice field this week to teach the fumblerooski? Was Dick LeBeau showing Steelers the “Immaculate Reception”? Those are two big moments in the history of those teams and this is a big game for two teams that did not like each other much in the 1970’s.
Oakland loves to run the ball to win while the Steelers excel in stopping the run. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been far from sharp since his return from suspension, as was seen by their second loss in three weeks last Sunday. An embarrassing loss that was over pretty early, even if “Big Ben” padded his stats in the fourth quarter.
Oakland has won their last three games, scoring 114 points over that time. They had scored 121 points over the previous six games, winning just twice. Their blocking has gotten better, but this week is the biggest test it has had so far this year.
Jason Campbell gets the start at quarterback, even though head coach Tom Cable has publicly said he prefers the now healthy Bruce Gradkowski. If Pittsburgh becomes Blitzburgh, like they have done so many times, there is a good chance both will play.
This game may come down to the kickers, where Oakland holds a huge advantage. Pittsburgh just cut veteran Jeff Reed and signed erratic journeyman Shaun Suisham. Reed, who has had two job offers already, spent all nine of his seasons in Pittsburgh and had missed only 38 of 227 field goal attempts in blustery Hines Field before missing seven this year. Pittsburgh may have jumped the gun too fast on this move.
Oakland 20 Pittsburgh 17
Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals
Now that Buffalo has finally gotten a win this year, it is time to get greedy and go for two in a row. Cincinnati is playing for nothing and only shows any heart and desire in spurts. The only one who may be fired up this week is Terrell Owens, who played in Buffalo last year. But he left on good terms, the first time he ever did so.
Buffalo has a good secondary and the Bengals throw the ball way too much in order to appease their loud mouthed receivers whose best days are behind them. If halfback Fred Jackson runs like he did last week, Buffalo can pull it off.
Bills 23 Bengals 21
Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys
Somehow the Cowboys are still talking as if their season isn’t over yet. Too little, too late. It is hot air from a bunch wanting to keep their jobs. When they beat up the Giants last week, they ran the ball a lot. Strange how former offensive coordinator and new head coach Jason Garrett decided to look to rediscover the rushing attack against a top rated defense. Maybe all of that inept play calling before was a means to sabotage Wade Phillips?
Detroit has to pass the ball well, especially with top running back Jahvid Best hurt. The Cowboys secondary is thin and injured, so the Lions need to lean on wide receiver Calvin Johnson heavily if they want to win.
Dallas 27 Detroit 21
Arizona Cardinals @ Kansas City Chiefs
Reality has hit the Chiefs hard. After a surprising start to their season, they have lost the last two games. Last week saw them down 35-0 quickly before they scored. Facing an Arizona team that has lost their last four games could get Kansas City back on track.
Chiefs 24 Cardinals 16
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
It is time to bench has-been Brett Farve. Brad Childress and everyone in the Vikings organization has to regret going down south to ask him to return. It would be fitting to see his last start come against the Packers, as well as see him get pulled from the game due to ineffectiveness while his Packers replacement, Aaron Rodgers, wins.
Packers 31 Vikings 20
Baltimore Ravens @ Carolina Panthers
Carolina head coach John Fox sent out a loud message recently. Down to his third string halfback, having lost the staring quarterback for the season and his backup recovering from a concussion, Fox signed journeyman Brian St. Pierre a few days ago and has named him a starter instead of rookie Tony Pike.
St.Pierre threw one pass for Pittsburgh in 2004, and four passes for Arizona last year. Baltimore’s defense is drooling so hard, they may have to wear bibs on the field Sunday.
Ravens 45 Panthers 0
Cleveland Browns @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Based of their play the past two weeks, Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini may be saving his job. They started their season thinking they would rely on Jerome Harrison and Jake Delhomme. Seneca Wallace was brought in as a precaution for Delhomme. Now Harrison is in Philadelphia and Wallace sits on the bench with Delhomme watching rookie Colt McCoy steer the ship in the right direction.
Peyton Hillis would win Comeback Player of the Year most seasons though Michael Vick seems the front runner now. Hillis has already piled up 726 yards on the ground, most of it earned between the tackles. His hard work inspires the team.
Both defenses give up a ton of yards, so this could come down to Hillis and Maurice Jones-Drew and over 40 rushing attempts between them.
Browns 27 Jaguars 24
Washington Redskins @ Tennessee Titans
Things are not well in Redskins Nation these days, and the timing of this game couldn’t be worse. With fans and players frustrated by dishonest coaches with their pampered and unproven kids in tow, the team now faces a fired up Titans team who knows they gave away a game last week.
The Redskins made a statement in front of America last Monday by basically laying down as soon as the ball was kicked off. Owner Dan Snyder has to be worried that he may have given away millions of dollars to another idiot.
Tennessee will look to run the ball down Washington’s throats, while the Redskins only real chance is for quarterback Donovan McNabb to get hot and carry them to victory.
Titans 27 Washington 13
Houston Texans @ New York Jets
Houston needs to run to win, but the Jets are tough against the run. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has been erratic all year, plus he just got out of the hospital. Not a formula conducive to winning.
Jets 21 Texans 16
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers
Niners halfback Frank Gore needs to be on his game here, because the Bucs struggle at stopping the run. Tampa Bay hasn’t won on the Niners home turf in over 30 years.
49ers 24 Buccaneers 17
Seattle Seahawks @ New Orleans Saints
Though no one, including the Seahawks themselves, know which Seattle team will show up for this game, the Saints are starting to get a little healthier after suffering so many injuries early in the season.
Saints 34 Seahawks 14
Atlanta Falcons @ Saint Louis Rams
The Falcons made a big statement beating Baltimore last week. A win here keeps the momentum rolling. The Rams are an up and coming team, but it appears the Falcons have arrived.
Falcons 30 Rams 20
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots
Game of the Week
The Colts not only are hurting, but they can’t run the ball. Peyton Manning is having one of his finest seasons at quarterback, and he will look to carve up a young Patriots secondary. Expect at least 40 passes from him here.
The Patriots do not have as good an offense or defense as the Colts statistically, but they do have one more victory. Tom Brady’s numbers are very similar to Manning’s, and they too have a running back by committee that has been banged up all year.
This game won’t be which quarterback is sharper, because both will be ready. It comes down to who has the best pass rush and whose wide receivers get open most.
Patriots 27 Colts 24
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
To keep it going for DeSean Jackson, the top dog of the NFL, Roger Goodell, just stepped outside of his boundaries as commissioner by telling the media how proud he is of his pup Michael Vick.
Vick has been turned into a legitimate NFL quarterback thanks to hard work by he and coach Marty Mornhinweg. He is playing like the Falcons envisioned when they drafted him before distractions got in the way. Vick has gone from the NFL outhouse to favorite for the MVP Award in just a few weeks.
The Giants performance against the Cowboys last week was disappointing, and it surely was not the performance of a champion. Though they have several veterans who know how to win, it may not matter against the red-hot Vick.
Eagles 34 Giants 30
Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers
Look out, because the Bolts have two impressive wins in a row after a 2-5 start to their season. Philip Rivers is having an MVP season, even if no one is talking about it as much as they should. The San Diego defense has been excellent as well.
Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton threw for 469 yards and four touchdowns last week, and he has been mostly excellent all season. Halfback Knowshon Moreno appears healthy for the first time all season, coming off his first 100-yard rushing performance this season.
This game is important to both so they stay within reach of the division lead. The Raiders are on top right now with just a 5-4 record.
Chargers 37 Broncos 23