Colts at Patriots

Tomorrow, 9 p.m. [WJLA-7, WMAR-2]


Touchdown passes by Colts QB Peyton Manning in 2004


Manning's projected total this year


Touchdowns by Colts RB Edgerrin James in 2004


James's projected total this year The NFL's realignment in 2002, which placed the Colts and Patriots in different divisions, did little to prevent the teams from playing each other. Tomorrow's game will mark the fifth time since then that they have squared off, including playoff meetings the past two seasons. Despite having the NFL's MVP, quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts lost those two games and have dropped their past six to the Patriots -- ever since a guy named Tom Brady took over as New England's quarterback.

Now the time seems ripe for Indianapolis to reverse that trend. The Colts have toned down their record-setting aerial assault for a more balanced attack, and finally have a stout defense (allowing a league-low 11 points per game). The result has been a 7-0 record, and despite the fact that they are on the road, oddsmakers favor the Colts.

Indianapolis Coach Tony Dungy tried to play down the significance of the game, saying, "It's still only one game in the middle of the season." But this is an important game psychologically for his unit, and not just because its record includes but one team currently above .500 (4-3 Jacksonville). Fairly or not, the inability of the Colts -- and Manning in particular -- to reach the Super Bowl has left them with the dreaded "can't win the big one" tag. A win over the defending champs, and personal nemeses, would go a long way toward proving Indianapolis has the right stuff.