KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
VENUE: Gillette Stadium
WEATHER: Foxboro, Mass
TV: CBS, Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
PREDICTION: Patriots 40-15
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Colts fired their defensive coordinator and benched their starting quarterback this week - a tough preparation for red-hot Patriots QB Tom Brady (eight touchdowns, no interceptions the past three games). Dan Orlovsky gets the start for Indianapolis and although New England's secondary is the most vulnerable spot, he must get help from the ground game to control the clock. The Patriots should also be able to run the ball inside with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, which will help negate the Colts' lone defensive threats - DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
FAST FACTS: Orlovsky (seven starts) and Colts LB Ernie Sims played for the NFL's only 0-16 team (2008 Lions). ... The Patriots have scored 30-plus points eight times in 11 games. The Colts cleared 20 once.
With a new quarterback at the helm for Sunday's game at New England, the Indianapolis Colts must get more from their up-and-down running game if they hope to have any chance of pulling a major upset against the Patriots.
The running attack has gotten better this year despite a patchwork offensive line.
Running backs Joseph Addai, Donald Brown and rookie Delone Carter have shown flashes of big-play ability throughout the year.
But it's been the Colts' continued problems in the red zone and converting on third down that continues to be a major bugaboo for the offense.
Addai has been slowed by a strained hamstring this year. And Carter has been impressive for a first-year player although fumbling issues has curtailed his playing time in recent weeks.
Brown, a former first-round pick in 2009, has been inconsistent during his two seasons with the team. But he has started to come around this year.
"Plain and simple, we certainly do (need the running game to be more consistent). A lot goes into that as well. We have to certainly be able to make certain that we are able to sustain some drives, so we can get our numbers up in that area. That's been a problem," coach Jim Caldwell said.
"(When) you're 1-of-9 in terms of third-down conversions, it kind of keeps those run totals down. But we'd like to try to increase in that area, if we possibly could, because that's one thing that we're doing that's been pretty consistent."
And with Dan Orlovsky getting his first start of the year at quarterback, having a consistent running attack is almost a necessity
"It's a quarterback's best friend, and we certainly hope we can help him in that area," Caldwell said.
The Patriots are aware of the numbers they've put up in the past few weeks on the defensive side of the ball. Regardless of the quality of the opponents --and, more specifically, the opposing quarterbacks - they're happy with the progress they've made, though they're still not completely satisfied.
"I think you can ask any football team or any professional team, 'Are you satisfied with where you are?' and you're never satisfied, but you have to keep striving to be the best you can be individually and as a team," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said.
"If you take the chance and just look at film on yourself and critique yourself, it makes the team better. The last thing you want to do is go out there and put the team in a situation where they can't trust you. That's one thing we preach around here, 'Make sure you're doing your job because the guy next to you is depending on you.' When we do that, things work out great, but when we don't, we have problems."
The numbers figure to get better this week as the Patriots prepare to face the Indianapolis Colts, who will start veteran backup Dan Orlovsky at quarterback. In the past two weeks, the Patriots have faced backups Tyler Palko and Vince Young, so they've grown accustomed to preparing for a player they haven't seen in quite some time if ever.
"Whatever we have, they'll get it. I don't care where it's from," Wilfork said on watching film of Orlovsky. "It's tough when you have a guy that you haven't really seen much of and you have to dig and dig and dig. If that's what we have to do, that's what we have to do.
"We were in that situation earlier a couple weeks ago with Kansas City and we had to find some clips and we did. I'm leaving it up to Bill (Belichick) and those guys to find that stuff for us, which they always do, to make it a little easier for us. It can be tough at times because you just don't know how a team is going to attack you in certain weeks and teams always attack us a little differently than they do everybody else. We have to be prepared. Whatever it may be, we definitely have to be prepared for it."
Echoing the same sentiment as the rest of his teammates, Wilfork said Indianapolis' 0-11 record means nothing to him this weekend; in fact, this is still a rivalry game to him, even without Peyton Manning taking snaps for the Colts.
"The record doesn't mean anything to us. This is the National Football League and we know any given Sunday, a team is going to try their best, especially against us, to try to wear us out and beat us up to prove a point," Wilfork said. "We're always walking around with a target. One thing we have to do is we have to be ready to go; start fast and finish fast."
--QB Peyton Manning had a conference call Thursday with Dr. Robert Watkins, whom issued the following statement: "X-ray and CT examination of the surgical area shows that the fusion performed in September has achieved firm fixation. Peyton will now be allowed to increase the intensity and breadth of his workouts as tolerated. There remains every indication that his recovery will continue. There still is no timetable for Peyton's return to practice, which is one of many steps in his expected return to game action. He is working hard on a rehabilitation program outlined in conjunction with myself, Erin Barill and Peyton. His response to this plan in the future will dictate his return date." Said Manning, "I am encouraged with what Doc had to say. I am happy that I can increase my rehabilitation program as outlined by him, Erin and the Colts Medical Staff. I am hopeful for continued progress in this next phase of my rehab."
--OG Joe Reitz (knee), who has missed the last four games after undergoing knee surgery, practiced fully on Wednesday but was held out of Thursday's workout. He may be available to play against the Patriots on Sunday. "There is a chance, a very good chance (that he will play)," coach Jim Caldwell said.
--RB Joseph Addai (hamstring) went through a full practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He continues to nurse a strained right hamstring.
--OG Ryan Diem (knee) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. A decision on Diem's availability for the New England game isn't expected until Saturday.
--C Jeff Saturday (knee) returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday's session. Saturday has been nursing a sore knee.
--TE Brody Eldridge (hand) did not take part in practice Wednesday and Thursday. His status for the Patriots game is not expected to change before the weekend.
--TE Dallas Clark (fibula) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Clark hurt his lower leg against the Falcons and has not practiced or played since. "He's coming along and he's making good progress. He went from work on the treadmill to field work now, so we'll see," coach Jim Caldwell said.
--DT Drake Nevis (back) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. Nevis has been bothered by a lower back injury since he initially suffered the injury against Tampa Bay. He probably won't be available to play Sunday at New England but a final determination has yet to be announced.
--WR Anthony Gonzalez (groin) is expected to be a game-time decision after sitting out practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
--FB Ryan Mahaffey (concussion) has yet to be cleared to return to practice after he was hurt against Carolina last Sunday. Mahaffey did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
--QB Dan Orlovsky has been through a winless season once. He doesn't want to relive the experience this season with the 0-11 Colts. Orlovsky started seven games for the Lions in 2008 during an 0-16 campaign. He completed 143-of-255 passes for 1,616 yards with eight TDs and eight interceptions.
--QB Tom Brady was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month for his performance in November. After opening the month with a loss to the Giants, Brady passed for more than 300 yards in each of the team's next three games against the Jets, Chiefs and Eagles.
--LB Brandon Spikes was not on the practice field Thursday during media availability as he continues to rehabilitate his knee injury. Spikes hasn't played since Nov. 6 against the Giants.
--OL Sebastian Vollmer missed practice Thursday due to a foot injury. Vollmer was injured last weekend and will likely miss Sunday's game.
--C Dan Connolly has been practicing despite a lingering groin injury and should be ready for Sunday's game. The Patriots' depth on the offensive line is limited beyond Connolly.
--LB Dane Fletcher should be ready to make his long-awaited return to the lineup Sunday. Fletcher hasn't played since Oct. 16 due to a thumb injury, but has been on the practice field all week.
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OTHER GAMES (Week 13)
Tennessee Titans (6-5) at Buffalo Bills (5-6)
Kansas City Chiefs (4-7) at Chicago Bears (7-4)
Atlanta Falcons (7-4) at Houston Texans (8-3)
Oakland Raiders (7-4) at Miami Dolphins (3-8)
Denver Broncos (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (2-9)
Indianapolis Colts (0-11) at New England Patriots (8-3)
Carolina Panthers (3-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
New York Jets (6-5) at Washington Redskins (4-7)
Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3)
Baltimore Ravens (7-4) at Cleveland Browns (3-8)
Dallas Cowboys (7-4) at Arizona Cardinals (4-7)
Green Bay Packers (11-0) at New York Giants (6-5)
St. Louis Rams (2-9) at San Francisco 49ers (9-2)
Detroit Lions (7-4) at New Orleans Saints (8-3)
San Diego Chargers (4-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)