The Indianapolis Colts hope to renew a rivalry with the New England Patriots this weekend. While you of course want to win every game, this one has a bit more weight on it.
First, its a home game under the lights. This is the type of game that made Peyton Manning a household name. Beating Tom Brady would put Andrew Luck firmly in the national spotlight, and likely in the drivers seat for MVP.
This game also has important playoff implications. The Patriots (7-2) have the top seed in the AFC while the Colts (6-3) are the third seed. A win would give the Colts a first round bye and home field advantage over the Patriots in the playoffs.
Indy has lost enough playoff games in New England to last a lifetime, they don’t need to face the Pats on their home field when it matters again.
Third, the Colts don’t have a quality win this season. Thankfully, this isn’t college football and that doesn’t really matter, but the Colts have yet to beat a team that is a virtual lock for the playoffs.
Consider the three losses that have come against the 7-2 Denver Broncos, the 7-2 Philadelphia Eagles, and the 6-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. The first two will likely win their divisions, while the Steelers should be making the playoffs at least as a Wildcard.
The Colts wins? They come against opponents who are a combined 21-34-1. Of those six teams, only the Ravens and Bengals appear to have a pulse this season (although the 27-0 beating the Bengals took in Indy suggests otherwise; Giovanni Bernard is still nursing his ribs).
The last time the Bengals took the field, they got hammered at home by the Browns (no, really, that happened). The Ravens had a virtual Bye Week due to facing the Titans last week, but also gave up six touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger the week before (that must be embarrassing).
What this boils down to is that the Colts have feasted on the dregs of the NFL (read: AFC South) and the pretenders of the league. They’ve failed against quality quarterbacks and teams that are truly successful on offense.
Beating New England would prove that the Colts are a true contender. It gives them a win they can hang their hat on and has the real possibility of helping them in the playoffs.
It isn’t a “must-win” game by any means. The Colts can sleepwalk to another AFC South title and the schedule is fairly easy following Sunday’s game. The most difficult games left are at Cleveland (that doesn’t sound right) and at Dallas.
This is another 10-plus win season for the Colts, but defeating the Pats helps their own cause and makes the playoffs look considerably easier.