KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
LOCATION:Gillette Stadium Foxboro, MA
Partly Cloudy 39°F
Feels like 35°F
Chance of Precipitation 10%
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 69th meeting. The Patriots lead the all-time series 43-25. The Colts finally got the Foxborough monkey off their backs last year with a 40-21 beat down of the Patriots. It's the first time the Colts won in New England since 1995. Even with that victory, this series has been all Patriots of late. Peyton Manning is 1-7 in Foxborough and 3-10 all-time against the Patriots. New England is 24-11 at home against its former AFC East rivals. The Patriots won seven consecutive games from 1996-99 and are 17-6 against Indianapolis since 1993.
*2006 RANKINGS: Colts: offense 2nd (17th rush, 1st pass); defense 20th (32nd rush, 3rd pass). Patriots: offense 11th (8th rush, 13th pass); defense 11th (3rd rush, 23rd pass)
PREDICTION: Patriots 31-28
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Colts' porous run defense was beaten down for 227 yards in Denver last Sunday, and Indianapolis still managed to win. But eventually the Colts will get burned if they keep playing with fire. New England has a bruising combination in RBs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney who have the ability to wear the defense down and keep Peyton Manning & Co. off the field. The Colts must find a way to slow the ground game so DE Dwight Freeney can become a factor again as a pass rusher. Few have been able to frustrate Manning like Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but the Colts' signal-caller did torch New England for 321 yards and three touchdowns last season. Then again, the Patriots were without FS Rodney Harrison and DE Richard Seymour that day. Still, the Colts will put points on the board, and the difference could come down to whether the Patriots are responding by scoring touchdowns or settling for field goals.
FAST FACTS: Since Patriots QB Tom Brady's first career start on Sept. 30, 2001, Brady (64) and Manning (59) have the most wins among NFL quarterbacks. Colts: Seek to become second team to start consecutive seasons 8-0 (Green Bay, 1929-31). Patriots: Brady is 6-1 against Indianapolis. ... Are 12-1 when Dillon has at least 90 yards rushing.
--WR Reche Caldwell, who caught seven passes for 84 yards against the Vikings, is questionable for this week's game due to a knee injury.
--WR Jabar Gaffney made his first catch as a Patriot in Minnesota. However, the receiver is listed as questionable for Sunday's game due to a hand injury.
--Rookie WR Chad Jackson (hamstring) is listed as questionable for this week's game.
--CB Ellis Hobbs has played in the past two games after wrist surgery. However, Hobbs is still listed as questionable for Sunday night.
--After being inactive against the Vikings, G Stephen Neal (shoulder) and OL Russ Hochstein (knee) are both questionable for this week's game.
--DE Richard Seymour (elbow) and DE Ty Warren (shoulder) played last week in Minnesota, but both players are questionable for the Colts game this Sunday.
--The Patriots listed 19 players as questionable on their injury report Thursday, while the Colts had 17. Obviously both teams are playing a game with each other, only proving that the injury report in the NFL is a mockery.
QUESTIONABLE: Willie Andrews, CB (Thigh); Reche Caldwell, WR (Knee); Don Davis, LB ( Lower Leg); Kevin Faulk, RB (Ankle); Jabar Gaffney, WR (Hand);Ellis Hobbs, CB (Wrist); Russ Hochstein, C (Knee); Chad Jackson, WR (Hamstring); Nick Kaczur, T (Shoulder); Matt Light, T (Hand); Laurence Maroney, RB (Ankle); Garrett Mills, TE (Thigh); Stephen Neal, G (Shoulder); Richard Seymour, DL (Elbow); Antwain Spann, CB (Shoulder); David Thomas, TE (Hand); Ty Warren, DL (Shoulder); Eugene Wilson, S (Hamstring); PROBABLE: Tom Brady, QB (Right Shoulder); Matt Cassel, QB (Right Shoulder)
--S Bob Sanders practiced Thursday and is expected to take part in Friday's workout as well. Sanders has missed the past five games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last month. If he can handle Friday's practice, there is a good chance he will be able to play this week.
--CB Nick Harper returned to practice Thursday. Harper had sat out Wednesday's session due to a knee burner. He is expected to play Sunday against New England.
--OT Ryan Diem sat out Thursday's practice. Diem has been nursing an upper arm injury. He is expected to return to practice later this week.
--WR Brandon Stokley isn't expected to be available for the Colts against New England. Stokley, who did not practice Thursday, is recovering from a sprained left knee. There is no timetable for his return.
--LB Keith O'Neil did not practice Thursday and is not expected to play this week. O'Neil suffered a sprained left ankle in last week's win over Denver.
OUT: Montae Reagor, DT Out (Head); Rob Morris, LB (Hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Joseph Addai, RB (Wrist);
Gary Brackett, LB (Knee); Ryan Diem, T (Upper Arm); Dwight Freeney, DE (Shoulder); Matt Giordano, CB (Calf); Nicholas Harper, CB (Knee); Aaron Moorehead, WR (Back); Keith O'Neil, LB (Ankle); Darrell Reid, DT (Abdomen); Dominic Rhodes, RB (Low Back); Bob Sanders, S (Knee); Brandon Stokley, WR (Knee); Ben Utecht, TE (Low Back); Terrence Wilkins, WR (Knee); PROBABLE: Hunter Smith, P (Right Groin); Adam Vinatieri, K (Right Groin)
SCOUTING THE TEAMS
For Patriots fans, it just doesn't look right to see one of the franchise's all-time great players wearing a Colts uniform. It's bad enough that kicker Adam Vinatieri left New England, but it's even worse that he signed with the hated Colts. Vinatieri's much anticipated return to Foxborough comes this Sunday night, and Patriots fans will be able to welcome him in the best way they see fit. In other words, he shouldn't expect to be showered with kisses.
As a Patriot, Vinatieri kicked two last-second, game-winning field goals to secure Super Bowl victories, but he'll always be remembered for the two field goals he made in a driving snow storm to beat the Raiders in the 2001 divisional playoffs. That win was the birth of the Patriots dynasty.
Bill Belichick was asked how he'd feel if the game came down to a Vinatieri field goal. In true Belichick fashion, he evaded the question about his former player and focused on the game itself.
"Whatever we need to do to win the game, that's what we're going to prepare to do," he said. "I can't tell you what the situation is going to be at the end of the game. I have no idea. We'll prepare for all of them."
While Belichick wasn't interested in discussing Vinatieri, one of the kicker's old teammates admitted the less the Patriots see of their former kicker on Sunday night, the better.
"We want to keep Adam off the field and not put him into those situations to be successful, because the guy is definitely clutch," defensive end Richard Seymour said.
In a conference call with the New England media on Wednesday, Vinatieri was asked if he has considered the possibility of hitting a game-winning kick to beat his old team on Sunday.
"I've thought about that," Vinatieri said. "It'd be fun if it was that way. Obviously, for selfish purposes, I want the Colts to win now. If it's by one point, three points or if we're lucky enough to be up by a couple touchdowns, it doesn't matter if I'm on the sideline cheering or if I'm part of it at the end."
Vinatieri missed three games earlier this season with a groin injury, but he's made all 14 of his field-goal attempts this year, including a 37-yarder in the final seconds to beat the Broncos last week. The Colts' new weapon said he's been looking forward to this game for a while.
"It's one of those weeks that you see on the schedule and you look forward to the opportunity to get back out there," Vinatieri said. "It should be a fun game. It'll be important and special for me."
Vinatieri went on to speak fondly of his 10 years with the Patriots, saying he hoped to get a chance to speak with a number of Pats players and coaches, including his former snapper Lonie Paxton and holder Josh Miller. However, he pointed out that this is a big game for both teams and not just about him returning to his old stomping grounds.
"We don't even have to discuss how big of a game this is," Vinatieri said. "Both teams know how big of a game this is. It's not a playoff game. It's not any of that stuff. Let's not read into it more than what it is. It's a game between two divisional leaders, and so, obviously, the hype is going to be there. The excitement is going to be there. The team that gets the win -- it's definitely going to push them ahead of the other in the standings for a while."
Peyton Manning says that last year's 40-21 win by Indianapolis over New England was good at the time, but that it doesn't mean a whole lot heading into Sunday night's nationally televised game at Foxborough.
"It doesn't matter to them what happened last year," Manning said. "It doesn't carry a lot of weight for us."
"But sure, last year at the time, it was a good win and kept our winning streak alive. Anytime you can beat a good football team on the road, it gives you confidence. But you have to keep doing it week after week, year after year."
The Colts have certainly had their troubles on the road against New England. Last year's win snapped a nine-game road losing streak to the Patriots.
"Every time we lost, it was unfortunate and unfair that the fingers got pointed at him: 'Why can't Peyton beat the Patriots?'" tight end Dallas Clark said. "That's not fair to him. He shouldn't ever (have) had to deal with that, but he does."
Added Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy: "You want to try to win everywhere. We had been pretty good on the road and hadn't been good there. The fact we won last year probably helped from that standpoint."
For his sake, Manning is taking this year's trip to New England as a new experience.
"What's happened in years past is really kind of irrelevant," Manning said. "It's what's going on right now during this season and the players that are playing and who plays better this Sunday.
"A guy like (rookie running back) Joe Addai on our team, he doesn't care what's happened in this series in years past. Why should that affect him in any way?"
Injury Report - Updates on Colts site
Newswire - an assortment of the latest news from around the web. Must read material
Patriots - Colts Over/Under Contest - Fans pick the over/unders
Colts Message Boards - Fan forums before, during and after the game
Patriots Message Boards - Fan forums before, during and after the game
Postgame - Games Balls and Goats - who played poorly, who played well