Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/18/12
The Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots have shared what arguably has been the best rivalry in American professional sports for much of the previous decade. Who can forget New England’s triumphs against Peyton Manning in the snow in Foxborough, Mass. during both the 2003 and 2004 playoffs? Or the epic Colts comeback in the 2006 AFC Championship game en route to Super Bowl glory? In truth, the NFL largely has become what it is today because of these two teams (all-time great quarterbacks, as well as Bill Polian’s successful lobbying for rules changes after the 2003 AFC Championship game). Now, though, the rivalry welcomes a new significant face: Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. True enough, rookie quarterbacks haven’t won against Tom Brady’s Patriots in Foxborough, but Luck is the biggest reason the Colts, picked by many analysts to rank near the bottom of the league this season, are 6-3, the same record the Patriots carry entering Sunday’s showdown at Gillette Stadium. A few of Luck’s traditional statistics — his 57.5-percent completion rate, nine interceptions and 79.1 passer rating — might not look special on the surface, but the rookie has played far better this season than those figures suggest (he’s completed 68.4 percent, 62.5 percent and 69.2 percent of his passes in each of his last three games). His third-down prowess has proven a major difference maker in Indy’s recent surge, particularly in its win against the Miami Dolphins, and he’s displayed tremendous ability to make plays with his feet, both avoiding the pass rush and gaining yardage with 13 first-down scrambles (not to mention five rushing touchdowns). ESPN’s Total QBR, which factors quarterbacks’ statistics and performances in key situations, suggests Luck has meant as much to his team’s success as many of the elite quarterbacks in the game. He ranks fourth in the league in total QBR, just below Brady, who stands second. Luck could be problematic for the Patriots’ pass defense, which ranks 29th in the NFL. I keep hearing analysts say coach Bill Belichick will take away his opponent’s best offensive playmaker, but who in that New England secondary is talented enough to match up with Reggie Wayne, who ranks near the top of the league in receptions and yardage while enjoying a rejuvenating season with Luck? The Patriots did recently trade for cornerback Aqib Talib, who has shut-down potential when his head is on straight, but is he going to be able to play at that level against Wayne in just his first game with New England off a suspension? Of course, there’s that whole rookies-in-Foxborough deal again. Also, the Patriots defense does have a legitimately sound pass rush for the first time since … well, Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel? Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones is showing why Belichick traded up in the first round to acquire him. The first-year man from Syracuse has recorded six sacks, has forced three fumbles and has knocked down three passes, prompting defenses to give him extra attention and allow other rushers some chances at the quarterback. I’m interested to see how well Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo handles Jones and how Luck responds to what could be heavy pressure throughout the game. The same can pretty much be said on the other sides for either team. We all know what Brady and the Patriots offense are capable of, and we know the Colts’ shaky pass defense could face trouble with both starting corners, Jerraud Powers (injured-reserve) and Vontae Davis, out (though it will be interesting to see if former Patriots and current Colts corner Darius Butler is able to build off  his three-takeaway game at Jacksonville against his old team today). And we know rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis always love to get after Brady. A lot of new twists to the Colts-Patriots classic. Many people might not have imagined this would be the case before the season, but the two rivals square off with playoff implications once again … and could they meet again in the postseason?
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cubs trade for Chapman a risk, but potential payoff too hard to ignore

White Sox fan wears a fantastic taped-up Chris Sale jersey

Wisconsin kicker will wear 27 to honor Nebraska's Sam Foltz

Dennis Schroder wears disguise to play in German streetball tournament

Browns indicate they will give Josh Gordon another chance

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Prince Fielder to undergo season-ending neck surgery

Eagles want Carson Wentz to be 'starter ready' Week 1

Report: 49ers concerned Anthony Davis will quit again

Did Manning hurt NFLPA's case in HGH investigations?

Report: Steinbrenner won't allow fire sale, wants to make playoffs

Report: Dion Waiters agrees to one-year deal with Heat

Dion Waiters' deal signals the end of the 2016 money grab

Tom Jackson could leave ESPN after almost three decades

Cavs sign coach Tyronn Lue to a five-year extension

More than 10,000 people registered for Jaguars Pokemon Go night

NFL issues new concussion protocol

Angels listening to offers on Hector Santiago

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

Kevin Durant’s OKC restaurant will be closed, rebranded

Lamar Odom said to be held back by one 'toxic friend'

Mario Balotelli crashes Liverpool fans' wedding

Michael Vick: I used to feel I was 'dominating too much'

WATCH: Astros, Rangers minor leaguers get into brawl

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker