Opinion: Patriots will have a cakewalk over Colts this weekend in NFL playoffs
On Monday morning, the Vegas betting line for Colts-Patriots Saturday night had the Pats favored by seven points. If only Suffolk Downs took non-animal bets, because it would have been well worth fighting through that Route 1A traffic, even on Blue Monday, to bet that Tom Brady and Co. are going to slaughter Indy this weekend.
Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano aren’t yet in Brady and Bill Belichick’s class. They may very well be the class of the AFC two, three or four years down the road, but right now, in the early days of 2014, they are at the top of the fraud list when it comes to Lombardi Trophy contention.
While the Patriots have long ago given up the “invincible in January” tag, having not captured a title since the 2004 season despite appearing in the postseason seven times, they have gone 8-7 in the playoffs since winning it all. It’s extremely difficult to have an above .500 mark in the postseason over a long period of time in the NFL, which makes the fact that the Patriots haven’t closed out a season with a ring in nearly 10 years all the more difficult for New England fans to take.
But know this: it takes a special breed of football team to knock off the Patriots in the postseason and this incarnation of the Colts is far from special. The Ravens, who knocked off the Pats in the 2009 and 2012 postseasons, out-toughed them and were absolutely never intimidated by the “aura” of Brady and Belichick. Whether you believe Terrell Suggs is full of excrement or not with what he continually says on TV and radio regarding the Patriots, it’s for certain that he and his Ravens teammates were not exactly terror-stricken by playing in Foxboro. The 2010 New York Jets had that same bravado, with Bart Scott playing the Suggs role. New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who coached alongside Belichick under Bill Parcells in New York once upon a time, was certainly not afraid of the Pats’ mystique either.
These were the types of people and those were the types of teams that got the job done against the Pats in the postseason.
All of those teams also had defenses that could do the improbable. They confused Brady for certain periods. Now, I’m sure Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has a high football IQ. I mean, he is employed by an NFL team and has previously been a defensive coordinator in San Diego and San Francisco. But he has never solved the Brady riddle. Far from it actually. Brady has had two of the best days of his career against Manusky defenses. Against Manusky’s Chargers in 2011, Brady threw for 423 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions with a 135.7 QB rating. Last season against Manusky’s Colts, Brady threw for 331 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions with a 127.2 QB rating. That’s a QB rating AVERAGE of 131.4 for Brady against Manusky. Remember, the scale only goes to 158.
Also in the Pats favor – they have blown out their last two divisional round playoff opponents by a combined score of 86-38, scoring over 40 points against the Texans last year and the Tim Tebow-led Broncos the year prior. The extra week of prep work helps Belichick. That’s no secret.
One also has to ask the question as to whether or not the Colts came up big in the clutch last week in their stunning, 45-44 win over Kansas City or did the Chiefs simply perform an all-time gag? From Andy Reid’s clock mismanagement to Dwayne Bowe not knowing where he was on the field, to the Chiefs defense’s inability to locate Colts receivers throughout the final 30 minutes, Kansas City wrote a whole new, phlegm-filled book on the football choke.
Yes, the Pats received two bits of “bad” news Monday. Linebacker Brandon Spikes is done for the season and former wide receiver Deion Branch may well be a Colts captain, Kevin O’Connell-style, by the time Saturday night rolls around.
Oh well. Spikes struggles in pass coverage and the 34-year-old Branch, that’s 83 in receiving years, will play about two downs this weekend.
Patriots 59, Colts 17. Money in the bank.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS