Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-9.5, 54.5)
Winners of four straight, the Indianapolis Colts take a step up in competition when they visit Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a marquee matchup on Sunday. Led by rookie Andrew Luck and inspired by their coach Chuck Pagano, who is battling leukemia, the Colts have surprisingly become a legitimate playoff contender.
The Patriots continue to roll on offense. Tom Brady has thrown at least one touchdown pass in his last 41 games and New England has added a potent ground game ranked fourth in the NFL. But the Patriots continue to struggle on defense, leaving the door open for some anxious moments late in games.
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE: Patriots -9.5, O/U 54.5.
WEATHER: Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the mid-40s under sunny skies. Wind won’t be a factor.
ABOUT THE COLTS (6-3): All four of Indianapolis’ victories in its current winning streak have come against teams who currently sport sub-.500 records. The Colts are 5-1 since Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia as his situation has galvanized the team. The players and even a cheerleader have shaved their heads in support of the coach. Luck has rushed for five scores and thrown 10 TD passes for the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense. The favorite for NFL Rookie of the Year admits to being a longtime fan of Brady and is eager for his chance in one of the league’s top rivalries. Indianapolis does have several injuries. Linebacker Dwight Freeney has been less than 100 percent for most of the season and the Colts placed CB Jerraud Powers on IR earlier in the week.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (6-3): New England has won the past two games in the series but it is going to have to straighten out things on defense. While the Patriots continue to score with ease, leading the NFL in scoring by averaging 33.2 points., the defense ranks 29th against the pass and 25th overall. Last week, lowly Buffalo scored 31 points and had the ball in the final minute looking to pull off the upset before Devin McCourty picked off a pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone. Still, New England has won three straight overall and is in firm control of first place in the AFC East Division.
* Colts are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Patriots are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games.
* Under is 4-0 in Colts’ last four games overall.
* Colts are 4-0 ATS in their last four games in New England.
1. Brady needs two TD passes to reach 20 for the 10th time in his career.
2. Pats tight end Aaron Hernandez was scratched from last week’s game and is questionable with a nagging ankle injury.
3. DB Robert Mathis is expected to play after missing the past two games for the Colts.