FOXBORO -- Why are the Patriots trying so hard to sound wary of the Indianapolis Colts?
"We don't take anything for granted," Tom Brady said in his weekly press conference. "When the ball's kicked off it doesn't matter what their record is, it doesn't matter what our record is. The team that's going to win is the team that plays the best that day.
"You can't go in there and go, 'Ohh, we're the Patriots . . . Colts. We're going to win this game and move on.' That's not the way we approach it, and that's not the way it works. Not in the NFL."
Awfully nice of you, Brady, but the Colts are a bad football team.
They were expected to flounder without Peyton Manning, but they're actually drowning. Very, very slowly. New England's three-game winning streak isn't expected to break over Indianapolis' knee, during a Sunday game so uninteresting it got flexed out of prime time.
The words "trap game" aren't even relevant.
Not only because there's no monster matchup after Week 13 (next up: the NFC East's cellar-dwelling Washington Redskins) but because the popular opinion is there's no conceivable way New England loses to Indy. Are the Colts on pace for their best rushing season since 2007? Yes. On the backs of Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Delone Carter they're projected to finish with 1,584 yards on the ground. Is defensive end Dwight Freeney 0.5 sacks away from 100 in his career? Yes. He currently ranks third in the NFL among active players.
But it's hard to give the numbers credence when they don't add up to wins. Indianapolis has played five teams -- Kansas City, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Carolina -- that are are now below .400 and couldn't summon enough strength to beat any of them. How can this be a meaningful game for New England?
Surely, the Patriots' mettle will be better tested by any of the other 30 teams who are not 0-11.
Yeah . . . I dont agree with that, Bill Belichick said Wednesday. So, you can go ahead on your soliloquy about that, but I just dont agree with that. You dont think you can gauge a team based on how a player blocks Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis? I mean, who else would you gauge it against? Are you kidding me?
"Covering Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Pierre Garcon -- you dont think you can gauge your coverage based on those players? I dont care what their record is. You dont think theres better receivers around than them? Better pass rushers than Freeney and Mathis? I mean, Im not sure what games youre watching here.
Imagine if New England lost.
The fallout would be worse than that following last season's 34-14 loss to Cleveland. That was a trap game. The Patriots visited the Dog Pound the week before back-to-back clashes with the Steelers and Colts. Cleveland dismantled them in shocking fashion. The media 'Ooh'd' and 'Ahh'd' that the Browns toppled a titan to add to their 2-5 record. And this was two weeks after Cleveland pulled off a stunner against New Orleans.
Imagine if Brady starts slowly and throws the ball at his tight ends' feet; Wes Welker is covered and Deion Branch can't gain separation; members of the secondary tackle each other; New England's D-line can't put a lid on Carter and Brown. Just picture the Patriots worst possible day and Indy's best -- whatever alternate universe where that scenario may occur.
Brady says he can.
"You guys don't play," he spat (gently). "You don't have to drop back and find the open guy with two guys breathing down your throat. You don't have to cover Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clarke and tackle those guys. They're damn good football players and they've proven that year after year against us.
"We go out expecting to get their best. Their best has been very, very close at times this year. They played Pittsburgh very well. So when you see them play a team like Pittsburgh well, actually better than we played them, then you understand they can certainly beat us if we don't go out and play well. If we allow them to do the things they want to do."
It's true the Colts came close against Pittsburgh.
Ben Roethlisberger had to drive 60-yards to get the go-ahead Steelers field goal with just four seconds left on the clock. Indianapolis' defense had three sacks, forced three turnovers and even scored a touchdown. Bottom line: It wasn't enough. As the case has been all season.
Still, the Patriots fear the chance -- or the possibility of the chance -- they could be the hump Indy claws over. In that case, it would be better to create a sense of urgency ahead of time.
'See? We told you they were good.'