Wilfork: This is a rivalry game

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Wilfork: This is a rivalry game

FOXBORO -- Vince Wilfork wants you to trust him. Just like Bill Belichick and and Tom Brady insisted you believed them on Wednesday. Their message is the same: The Colts aren't as bad as you think.

"Trust me," Wilfork said Thursday. "You're not looking at a terrible football team when you're looking at 0-11 or the Indianapolis Colts this year. It's not a terrible football team. It's just they haven't made plays."

And therein lies the Colts' problem. They haven't stacked together enough plays to win a game yet this season. So why do the Patriots insist on singing their praises? Sure, they want to maintain their usual game-week intensity. And they don't want to be known as the first team to lose to the Colts. (Not to mention the first team to lose when Dan Orlovsky is the opposing starting quarterback.)

But there's another reason. For many of the Patriots, a game against the Colts is a rivalry game. That's what Wilfork called the teams' ninth straight regular-season meeting. He said it doesn't matter whether or not Peyton Manning is in uniform. The Colts are still the Colts. There are too many memories of hard-fought games with Indy for the Patriots not to take them seriously.

"Were not looking at the record; were looking at a Colts team that, over the years, always played us tough," Wilfork said. "Guys get injured all the time, you play with injuries all the time, you play with key players sometimes that arent out there, so were not looking at that as an issue for us. Were looking at how well we can play as a football team, the New England Patriots, how well we can play on Sunday."

Colts games in the Manning-Brady Era always served as measuring sticks for the Patriots. They didn't carry the weight of divisional games, but they often helped decide playoff seeding for the Pats and Colts, who were perennially in the postseason.

That won't be the case this Sunday. The Colts' season will be done after Week 17. And while it may be too early to call it the end of an era, if the Colts wind up with the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and select a quarterback, they will have to make some decisions regarding Manning's future:

Do they keep Manning and let their rookie quarterback develop under his tutelage? Or do they trade Manning while his value is high and begin the rebuilding process under a new franchise arm?

It's hard to imagine Manning with anything other than a horseshoe on the side of his helmet, but it could happen. And when that era is over, so too, for all intents and purposes, is the Patriots-Colts rivalry.

For now, though, Manning is still a Colt. And as long as he's with Indy, as Wilfork swore, the rivalry is alive. It's just not the same.

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."

Patriots promote coaching assistant Nick Caley to tight ends coach

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Patriots promote coaching assistant Nick Caley to tight ends coach

As the Patriots so often like to do, they promoted from within to fill an open coaching position on Monday. 

The team announced that they've named Nick Caley as their tight ends coach, filling the vacancy left behind when Brian Daboll accepted the offensive coordinator position at the University of Alabama last week. 

Caley was a coaching assistant with the Patriots for the past two seasons after spending a decade in the college ranks at John Carroll (2005-06), Akron (2006-07), Auburn (2008), Iowa State (2009-11), Eastern Illinois (2012), Arkansas (2013) and Florida Atlantic (2014).

Caley is one of several John Carroll products -- including director of player personnel Nick Caserio, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Shuplinski -- working for the Patriots at the moment. He graduated from the Jesuit university situated just outside of Cleveland in 2006.