While the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and likely the majority of the world have grown tired of “Deflategate,” the saga is once again brought to the forefront on Sunday as the respective teams meet for the first time since last season’s AFC Championship Game. Tom Brady was initially suspended four games by the league for his alleged role in the scandal, but a federal court overruled the decision that stemmed from the Patriots’ decisive 45-7 rout of the Colts on Jan. 18.
Brady, who threw for three touchdowns in that contest, had two through the air and one on the ground in New England’s 30-6 rout of Dallas last week. While the Patriots are attempting to reach 5-0 for the first time since their perfect regular season in 2007, Indianapolis has rebounded from a tough start to win three straight contests. Andrew Luck has been a bystander in the last two with an ailing right shoulder, but owner Jim Irsay expects the former top overall pick to play on Sunday. As for any lingering feelings from last season’s playoff loss, Colts coach Chuck Pagano did his best to put it to bed by saying, “This team hasn’t played that team, right? Got no relevance.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Colts as 7-point home dogs and that’s gone up to +7.5. The total opened 55 and is down to 54.5.
Patriots – WR Aaron Dobson (Probable, undisclosed), RB Dion Lewis (Probable, abdominal), OL Ryan Wendell (Probable, illness), LB Jon Bostic (Questionable, acquired), DL Trey Flowers (Questionable, knee), LB Dont’a Hightower (Questionable, ribs), CB Tarell Brown (Doubtful, foot), WR Brian Tyms (Out indefinitely, foot), T Nate Solder (I-R, elbow), OL Bryan Stork (I-R, concussion), WR Brandon LaFell (I-R, foot), LB Dane Fletcher (I-R, knee), DT Chris Jones (I-R, calf), DB Darryl Roberts (I-R, wrist), FB James Develin (I-R, shin), WR Brandon Gibson (I-R, knee).
Colts – LB Bjoern Werner (Probable, hamstring), CB Vontae Davis (Probable, calf), WR T.Y. Hilton (Probable, groin), QB Andrew Luck (Probable, shoulder), LB Nate Irving (Questionable, knee), LB Jerrell Freeman (Questionable, groin), RB Tyler Varga (I-R, concussion), CB D’Joun Smith (I-R, knee), DT Arthur Jones (I-R, ankle), CB Tevin Mitchel (I-R, shoulder).
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Patriots (-8.5) + Colts (-2.0) + home field (-3.0) = Colts +3.5
WHAT THE CAPPERS SAY: “When the defending Super Bowl champs go into the bye week with a 34 point win and come out of the bye with a 24 point win, it?s time to raise their power rating! In two games as the starter, 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck has a QB rating of 95.0. In three games as the starter, elite QB Andrew Luck?’s rating is only 65.0, primed for a big rise.” Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS, 2-2 O/U): Rob Gronkowski resides two touchdowns shy of becoming the fifth tight end with at least 60 in his career. The mammoth Gronkowski has 300 yards receiving and six scores in his last four meetings with Indianapolis, but has been kept out of the end zone in New England’s past two games. Julian Edelman (team-leading 34 receptions) was held to “just” four catches against the Cowboys, but recorded a season-high 120 yards.
ABOUT THE COLTS (3-2 SU, 1-4 ATS, 2-3 O/U): After a sluggish start to the season, Pro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson had a pair of touchdown receptions in the Colts’ 27-20 victory over Houston on Oct. 8. Fellow veteran Frank Gore found the end zone versus the Texans and has three scores in the last three weeks. Indianapolis turned to a familiar face on Wednesday and signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who had eight touchdowns (two rushing, six receiving) in 2014 before a broken leg ended his season.
* Over is 7-0 in the last seven meetings.
* Patriots are 4-0 ATS in their last four meetings.
* Patriots are 35-14-2 ATS in their last 51 games in October.
* Under is 4-0 in Colts last four home games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty-eight percent of Covers users are backing the Patriots.