You don’t need Bill Belichick to tell you that the Patriots have had the Indianapolis Colts’ number in recent seasons. The Pats have hung at least 42 points on Indy in all three of the teams’ meetings since Andrew Luck took over as quarterback, winning by at least 21 points in each case.

And yet, Sunday’s official NFL betting line for the AFC Championship lists the Patriots as just 7-point favorites over Luck and company, in Foxborough.

That the spread isn’t in double-digits says a lot about how far the Colts have come since they were beaten 42-20 by the Patriots in mid-November.

The biggest single change in Indianapolis’ play has come from their defense. After allowing an average of 31.6 points per game through their first eight games of the season, the Colts turned it around after their game with the Pats, allowing just 17.4 PPG over their next eight, including the playoffs.

And while they may have been facing the two least impressive quarterbacks in the playoffs (injured or no, Peyton was bad), it’s hard to argue with the fact the Colts have allowed the second-fewest yards per game in the postseason (271 per game).

We know Andrew Luck is going to get his day-in, day-out, but it’s this defense that most puts the betting line, and indeed the game as a whole, in context. Belichick and Brady will need to tear down a unit that has found its feet of late, and will come prepared for the run-first game plan that saw Jonas Gray break out for four touchdowns in Indy in November.

Not that I don’t think New England has the goods to deliver on Sunday, but we should also be conscious this will be no cake walk. The Colts are happy to be the underdogs in this fight, and have proven their most underappreciated unit can step up when the lights are brightest.

Staff 1/15/2015 11:00:00 AM Edit

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