There will be a new NFL champion this year. The Indianapolis Colts (-11) had the better of the visiting San Diego Chargers on offense Sunday, but two tipped Peyton Manning passes for interceptions were the difference in a 28-24 Chargers victory. San Diego won despite in-game injuries to Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Indy wasn’t the biggest chalk on the Divisional board. That was the New England Patriots (-13.5) in Saturday’s matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tom Brady was 26-of-28 for three touchdowns, and Laurence Maroney rumbled for 122 yards and a score, but the Jags were sufficiently pesky to grab the cash in a 31-20 loss.
The Pats will now prepare to host the resilient Chargers in the AFC Championship game. It was unknown at press time how the knee injuries suffered by both Rivers and Tomlinson would affect their status for Sunday’s matchup. New England reported no significant injuries.
You’re going to see it mentioned time and again this week. I was among the many who got burned last year picking the home team in the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs. They were 0-4 ATS.
I certainly won’t be shying away from taking the home side in the two AFC Divisional games this weekend. These are two of the best teams ever assembled: the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. They are so good that I have no problem taking New England (-13) over Jacksonville and Indianapolis (-9) over San Diego.
The bye week is the reason home teams (last year notwithstanding) have traditionally done well in this round. It’s going to be of particular use to the Colts, who had a number of nagging injuries on offense and needed the rest. And it’ll be very difficult indeed to out-coach Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy when they’ve had an extra week to prepare.
The NFL never ceases to amaze. We saw some amazing things happen both on and off the field in 2007. Some of what we saw, we wish we hadn’t. The Top 10 list of the league’s biggest stories of the year proves that truth is stranger than fiction.
Michael Vick arrested and jailed on dogfighting charges, suspended by NFL New England Patriots go 16-0 during 2007 regular season Sean Taylor shot at his home by intruder, dies at hospital Marquise Hill dies in jet-ski accident Indianapolis Colts beat Chicago Bears at Super Bowl XLI Bobby Petrino signs with Atlanta Falcons, leaves for Arkansas after 13 games Bill Parcells retires for third time, comes back as top exec for 1-15 Dolphins Tom Brady (50 TD passes) and Randy Moss (23 TD catches) set league records Brett Favre breaks Dan Marino’s career records for TDs and yards passing Pac-Man Jones suspended for entire season following strip-club riot
So the New England Patriots are laying 24 points to the New York Jets. No problem. That makes a lot more sense than when the Pats were –24 against the Eagles, who nearly pulled off the upset in Week 12. Philadelphia has talent. The Jets don’t. They’re 3-10 SU, 4-8-1 ATS and the worst defensive team in the league in terms of efficiency. I’ll eat that chalk, and I’ll like it.
I’ll also take the big favorite in the Indianapolis Colts–Oakland Raiders matchup. That, of course, would be the Colts at –11. The Raiders are playing at a worse level than the Jets despite their 4-9 record (5-8 ATS). That’s because they’ve gotten to play other teams in the awful AFC West so often. Indy is not far behind New England among the league’s elite. A line of anything under two touchdowns seems like a blessing compared to what New England has to cover this week.
The last couple of weeks have shaken up the top of the NFL standings. The New England Patriots are still humming along, undefeated at 9-0 (8-1 ATS), but the Indianapolis Colts have dropped two in a row to fall even with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7-2.
If you can’t stand the thought of eating chalk on the Super Bowl futures market, then you need to figure out which team has the best chance to knock off the Patriots. We’re going to leave 8-1 Dallas and Green Bay out of the equation, since they play in the lesser NFC.
The Colts came very close to beating New England in Week 9, and that was without LT Tony Ugoh and WR Marvin Harrison, but even more offensive players (plus DL Dwight Freeney) have been hurt since then. That might leave it up to Pittsburgh’s No. 2-ranked defense to upset New England for the AFC championship. It could happen.
That’s the main storyline (as far as we’re concerned) about Sunday’s Patriots-Colts game. Sure, the Pats went 9-0 straight up and will now carry the 1972 Miami Dolphins on their backs for the rest of the season – or until they lose, whichever comes first. But it was easily the toughest game of the year for both teams, and New England escaped by the skin of its teeth.
It took two fourth-quarter TD drives (keyed by two Tom Brady bombs) for New England to win 24-20 as 6.5-point road faves. Indy’s offense did well in the first three quarters, but the absence of Marvin Harrison was problematic for Peyton Manning, especially once Anthony Gonzalez was knocked out in the first half with a finger injury.
Even if you had given the Colts a full complement, Sunday’s game would have been a close one. Perhaps they will meet again in the AFC Championship (fingers crossed).
Now here’s a highlite video of the Colts/Patriots game from Sunday. Enjoy.
Never before have two undefeated teams met this late in an NFL season. Call it Super Bowl 41 1/2. Admit it, you’ve been waiting for this game since Week 1. Whichever team wins Sunday’s epic showdown between the Colts (7-0) and Patriots (8-0) will be anointed the king of the NFL, the clear favorite to win the Super Bowl. By beating the Patriots, the Colts can prove they’re still the boss. The winner of this game will be the last unbeaten team, with a chance for a perfect season. The game also has huge implications for the playoffs because the winner will have a leg up on securing home-field advantage. How important is that? All three times these teams have met in the playoffs, the home team has won.