The barbarians are at the gate. Here come the New England Patriots.
And just how does Indianapolis intend to welcome the invaders on Oct. 18? Mass booing? Clever posters? Molten lead?
It is the Sunday night game the football world has awaited. Well—NBC, anyway. Think Deflategate gets mentioned over the coming days? Think Deflategate gets mentioned a thousand times? Think the pressure of the footballs Sunday will be confirmed by the FBI and read into the Congressional Record?
Think the Colts’ 0-6 record the past six games against New England is brought up? Or the 130-49 combined score of the past three meetings? Or Andrew Luck’s 6-10 touchdown-interception ratio against the Patriots defense?
Think Bill Belichick will take the field wearing the scowl of a man who just sat on a porcupine?
October matchups seldom come with so much sizzle. You don’t even need Jim Irsay tweets for this.
In the end, most of all, it will be a game. Not a bid for vengeance, or a morality play, or a made-for-TV drama. A game. And, alas, that’s usually where the trouble starts for the Colts against the Patriots. Doesn’t matter if the New England footballs have the air pressure of a bean burrito.
This is the beginning of crunch time for the Colts. Are they for real, or not? Can they get over their early-season messiness and appearance of vulnerability, or can’t they? Are all those free agents going to make a difference, or aren’t they? You can win ugly against Jacksonville and Tennessee. But against the Patriots, or Carolina, or Denver, or Atlanta? Not so much.
By the way, those four teams have at least two things in common. No. 1, they were all unbeaten after the fourth week of the season. A combined 15-0. No. 2, they are all Indianapolis opponents in the next six weeks.
Now might be a good time to bring up an intriguing statistic of the Luck/Chuck Pagano/Ryan Grigson regime. The 18-2 regular-season record against the AFC South (through the most recent Jacksonville game) and the 17-15 record against everyone else. The Colts need more good days in big-boy football to prove they are not just the beneficiary of a cushy division. So when the coming trial by fire is over, the Colts could be back to being discussed among the elite. Or, they could be fatally damaged goods. It is the parade of the acid tests, one after another after another.
“We all got the schedule,” Pagano said the other day. “These are one-game seasons. Period.”
So this is the beginning of a six-week Colts’ moment of truth. It’s about football. Loathing the opponent is optional. To get ready for Sunday night, let’s have a little game of Patriots Jeopardy. Choose question A or B. Both fit the answer given for each pair.
■ Answer: 2,162 days
A. Come Sunday, how long will it have been since the Colts last beat the Patriots?
B. How long has it been since Donald Trump wasn’t in the headlines?
■ Answer: 39.7 and 18
A. What was the contrast between the Patriots’ scoring average and the Colts’ average the first four weeks of this season?
B. What are the normal high and low temperatures for Foxborough in January, when the Colts have to play a postseason game there?
■ Answer: 12
A. What was Andrew Luck’s age the first time Tom Brady won a Super Bowl?
B. How many beers will Lucas Oil Stadium fans gulp down Sunday if they have to sit through another New England blowout?
■ Answer: 220
A. How many minutes on the game clock has it been since the Colts even had the lead against the Patriots? In other words, four games ago.
B. What’s the price of a Bill Belichick hoodie, size XL?
■ Answer: 12.5 to 13.5
A. What is the psi of a properly inflated NFL football? Just in case, you know, any of the New England equipment guys have forgotten.
B. What is the hat size of the average New England Patriot fan?
■ Answer: 18.1
A. What percentage of Luck’s 55 interceptions his first three seasons came against one team, the New England Patriots?
B. What’s the youngest age of anyone who can remember the last time the Colts beat the Patriots in the postseason?
■ Answer: 657-171
A. What’s the New England advantage in rushing yardage the past three games against Indianapolis?
B. What were the first six numbers of Tom Brady’s old cell phone, in case anyone fishing on the Charles River finds it?
■ Answer: 47.25
A. What is the Patriots’ scoring average their past four games against the Colts?
B. On a scale of 1 to 500, what is the buddy rating of Pagano and Grigson?
Note there seems to be a trend in the answers. Bad news for the guys in horseshoes. Changing that, and leaving September’s doubts behind them, is what Oct. 18 is all about. Not Tom Brady’s ethics.•
Lopresti is a lifelong resident of Richmond and a graduate of Ball State University. He was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years; he covered 34 Final Fours, 30 Super Bowls, 32 World Series and 16 Olympics. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at [email protected]