Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7, 54 o/u)
For the third time in the last eleven seasons, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts will face off in the AFC Championship (Sunday, 6:40 p.m. Eastern on CBS).
But this matchup is different for the Colts, as it will be their first conference championship against New England with Andrew Luck at QB (rather than Peyton Manning).
In fact, Indianapolis eliminated Manning’s Denver Broncos last week to get here and did so in convincing fashion, holding the Broncos to just 13 points en route to a 24-13 SU and ATS win.
“I think we’re playing good team ball,” said Luck. “We’re feeding off each other. Offensively we’re making enough plays to put some points on the board.”
Luck hasn’t experienced much success against the Patriots in his young career, but hopes to turn things around this week. In three career games against New England, he’s thrown six touchdowns against eight interceptions, with a low 53.8 completion percentage.
Luck’s struggles against New England aren’t ancient history, either. The Colts were routed by the Pats at home during the regular season, 42-20. Luck is doing his best to downplay the significance of that game.
“I’d like to think I am a better quarterback and would like to think we’re a better team,” Luck argued. “We are well equipped to handle the unknown, the unforeseen.”
New England is in familiar territory and still has veteran Tom Brady at quarterback. This is the fourth straight AFC Championship appearance for the Patriots and the ninth in the past 14 seasons. But they aren’t taking this for granted.
“We’re very fortunate to be in this position to have a chance to play in it,” Brady said. “I think more so than anything, you’re just excited for the opportunity to be able to do it. It’s hard to do and our team found a way to get there this year so hopefully we can take advantage of the opportunity.”
If the Colts hope to win, they will have to contain New England’s ground game. The Patriots have dominated the line of scrimmage in the teams’ last two meetings.
That said, New England only mustered 14 yards on the ground last week against Baltimore, relying on Brady’s arm and trick plays to eke out a 35-31 win (as 7.5-point favorites).
Problems on the ground notwithstanding, New England is currently a seven-point favorite with the over/under at 54.
(Photo credit: Todd Shoemake (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)