Tuesday, April 13, 2010


By Alec Radzikowski, TheSportsHatch.com Managing Editor

As the New England Patriots prepared to face the undefeated Indianapolis Colts on the road this Sunday night, Tom Brady perfectly summed it up during this week's press conference when asked about playing against Peyton Manning.

"I think the great thing about playing the Colts is that you really see where you are as a team," Brady said. "We've made some improvements, we all feel that we've made some improvements over the last five, six weeks and this is really where you get put to the test, with a team that can play well in all phases. (Indianapolis) can score points. They're leading the league in defense. So it's a lot of fun for us."

Fun? Lest anyone forget that's what separates Tom Brady from the middle-of-the-road quarterbacks across the league. Obviously Manning is in this class as well. These ultra-competitive players thrive in pressure situations and display the utmost confidence while leading their teams down the field. Some may even remember the story of Brady taking a pregame nap before his first Super Bowl victory vs. the St. Louis Rams in 2002.

Ever the cool customer, Brady was absolutely correct about the ramifications of this game. The Patriots are currently 6-2 and in the driver's seat for the AFC East Division crown, leading the second place New York Jets by two games. Brady isn't fazed by playing the best teams in the game. That should come in handy this week, and if they're fortunately enough to get a win in Indy, the Patriots can deal the Jets' playoff hopes a crushing blow when they host them the following week.

Then New England will face another test when they travel to New Orleans on November 30. The Saints (8-0) play against St. Louis (1-7) this week, so it's pretty safe to assume they will remain undefeated when they host New England. How do you think the Patriots would feel as a team if they managed to knock off the two last undefeated teams in the league in a span of three weeks?

But the Patriots obviously realized they've got company in the AFC East. Cincinnati has become a contender in the Central Division and this week travels to Pittsburgh in a battle for first place. The Broncos are also 6-2 and have a one game edge over San Diego. The Chargers have a tough schedule with Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas and Cincy remaining, but they've proven that they are a good football team that will compete for the postseason.

Sunday night's nationally televised game is a big indicator of how good the Patriots are at this point in the season. If the Patriots can hand the Colts its first defeat, they will hope that Indy can lose another game (at least) and then the Patriots would own the tie-breaker for home field advantage if these teams happen to meet again later in the season.

If the Colts take this contest, they might not lose a regular season game this year. Their next toughest match up would be traveling to Denver to face the Broncos on December 13. Despite their crushing injuries to the secondary and a significant injury to their potential No. 2 receiver Anthony Gonzalez in the opening game, the Colts are still a dominant team. They play hard from start to finish and cause nightmares for their opponents.

Except Tom Brady that is.

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