INDIANAPOLIS – When divisional realignment occurred following the 2001 regular season, the seasonal matchups between the Colts and Patriots looked to become extinct.
However, thanks to the teams’ dominance over the past decade, Sunday’s contest is the 13th overall meeting between the franchises since 2003.
In addition to the regular rotation pattern of league scheduling, the Colts and Patriots met for many years because they finished in the same divisional position as each other.
Sunday’s game in Foxborough has been moved to a 4:25 p.m. time slot to showcase two of the AFC’s best teams. Indianapolis and New England stand at 6-3. They are two of six conference teams with six or more victories.
The Patriots are riding a three-game winning streak into the matchup with the Colts, and their three losses have been by a total of just four points (20-18 versus Arizona, 31-30 at Baltimore and 24-23 at Seattle).
New England quarterback Tom Brady once again leads the league’s top offense and has 18 touchdown passes to just three interceptions on the season.
Brady is not afraid to spread the ball around to multiple targets. Wide receiver Wes Welker leads the way with 66 receptions for 810 yards. He is one of 13 Patriots to catch passes from Brady.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been the go-to guy in the red zone with eight touchdown receptions in nine games.
The Patriots also have been committed to an extremely productive run game this season. New England has three different backs with at least 43 attempts on the season, with Stevan Ridley topping the group with 814 yards and six touchdowns on 172 attempts. The rushing attack ranks fifth in the NFL with an average of 146.0 yards per game.
New England’s 430.3 yards per game average is almost 25 yards more than its nearest competitor, and its 33.2 scoring average is three points more than any other team.
Defensively, the Patriots have been effective against the run (ninth in the league), and the pass defense ranks 29th in yards allowed.
One area the Patriots continue to be among the league’s best is turnover ratio. New England’s 23 takeaways are five more than any other AFC team, and the Patriots’ seven giveaways are the fewest in the NFL.
2012 Record: 6-3, First in the AFC East.
Head Coach: Bill Belichick, 13th season as Patriots head coach and 18th NFL season as head coach (198-107 overall).
2012 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 1st (430.3); Rushing, 5th (146.0); Passing, 7th (284.3) Defense – Overall, 25th (382.1); Rushing, 9th (96.8); Passing, 29th (285.3).
2012 Leading Passer: Tom Brady (232-358 comp., 2,645 yards, 64.8 pct., 18 TDs, 3 Ints, 100.1 rating).
2012 Leading Rusher: Stevan Ridley (172 carries, 814 yards, 6 TDs).
2012 Leading Receiver: Wes Welker (66 receptions, 810 yards, two touchdowns).
2012 Leading Sacker: Chandler Jones (6.0).
2012 Turnover Breakdown: 16. (1st).
2012 NFL Draft Results: The Patriots went defensive early and often in April’s NFL Draft. In the first round, the Patriots chose Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones with the 21st overall pick. Jones has started all nine games in his rookie season and leads the team with six sacks. Four picks after Jones, the Patriots traded up to select Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The 270-pound Hightower has started six games this season. In the second round, the Patriots chose safety Tavon Wilson, who has started four of the past five games and leads the team with three interceptions. In all, the Patriots selected six straight defensive players to start the draft.
2011 Review: The Patriots ended the 2011 season with eight straight regular season wins before heading into the playoffs, where they captured the AFC Championship. Quarterback Tom Brady turned in another Pro Bowl season, and the tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez flourished for the New England offense. After the Patriots defeated Baltimore in the AFC Championship game, they headed to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. Looking for their fourth Super Bowl victory since the 2001 season, the Patriots fell to the New York Giants, 21-17.
Last time in Playoffs: 2012. Lost Super Bowl XLVI to the New York Giants, 21-17.
Last time in Super Bowl: 2012. Lost Super Bowl XLVI to the New York Giants, 21-17.
Super Bowl Championships: Three (2001, 2003, 2004). Super Bowl XXXVI over the St. Louis Rams, 20-17. Super Bowl XXXVIII over the Carolina Panthers, 32-29. Super Bowl XXXIX over the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21.
2011 Pro Bowl Selections: Tom Brady QB, Andre Carter DE, Rob Gronkowski TE, Logan Mankins OG, Matthew Slater (special teams), Brian Waters OG, Wes Welker WR, Vince Wilfork DT.