Until last year, Peyton Manning was 0-for New England. Then the Colts beat the undermanned Patriots 40-21, so Peyton now is 1-7 in Foxborough in his eight-plus seasons.

The Colts go back to Gillette Stadium on Sunday night, just about a year to the day of that monkey-off-the back win. Once again, they go in unbeaten.

No matter. The Patriots are favored by two points after an impressive 31-7 win in Minnesota on Monday night. That makes sense – they have only one loss and are coming together after having to build an almost entirely new receiving corps.

A lot is on the line here, including, potentially, home-field advantage in the playoffs. It is also the homecoming for Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker ever with two Super Bowl-winning field goals and a couple of huge kicks in the playoffs. He was allowed to leave by the Patriots and signed last spring with the Colts – for whom he made a winning field goal at Denver last Sunday.

There’s also the mano a mano between the game’s two best quarterbacks, Manning and Tom Brady, who threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns against a Minnesota team poised to stop the run.

“Tom is such a smart guy,” says New England tight end Benjamin Watson, who has become his favorite receiver with the departures of Deion Branch and David Givens. “He studies. You could ask him anything, and he knows it.”

But Brady may be an afterthought this week.

Just as Bill Belichick went after the run-stuffing Vikings with the pass, he’d be foolish not to run against the Colts, who are last in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 168 yards per game on the ground. That fits well – until Monday night, the New England offense was built around Corey Dillon and rookie Laurence Maroney.

Given that stat, given the Colts’ history in New England, Indy is due to lose …


By the Associated Press

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