The Patriots won’t have to face the Colts again in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots and Colts will meet in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but it’s a different game.
The game will be the first meeting between the two teams since the Super Bowl XLIX loss in Denver, when the Colts won 27-24 on a last-second field goal.
The Patriots, who have lost just twice since, have played with more urgency than usual.
New England won’t be running the ball in its remaining three games.
For the first time this season, the Patriots will likely face the opponent they defeated in the Superdome the previous week.
That’s a good thing for New England because the Patriots haven’t beaten the Colts in the final three weeks of the season.
The Colts haven’t lost to New England since the start of October, but they’re coming off a 26-20 loss at the hands of the Patriots.
The Indianapolis defense has struggled in recent weeks, allowing an average of 31.3 points per game to the Patriots, but Indianapolis was outscored 37-20 in the third quarter in the two games.
Indianapolis’ offense is coming off two of its most lopsided victories of the regular season, defeating the Giants in the playoffs and then the Ravens in the divisional round.
The Colts will be without wide receiver Reggie Wayne (ribs), linebacker Brian Orakpo (illness), cornerback Vontae Davis (back), tight end Delanie Walker (shoulder), wide receiver Dwayne Allen (knee) and cornerback Josh Boyce (concussion).
The Colts have been without receiver Marvin Jones (foot) and quarterback Andrew Luck (back).
New England will have to score a touchdown to win the game, but if the Patriots don’t score on their first two possessions, it’s difficult to envision them being in a position to win.
New England is expected to play a more balanced offense than it has in recent years, as the Patriots have run a more spread-based game plan.
The Broncos will likely try to stay healthy and keep their defensive backs healthy after missing most of the preseason due to an ankle injury.
Denver, which has won six in a row, is in a different position than it was a year ago, when Peyton Manning was hurt for the first two games of the playoffs.
Manning was expected to be healthy for the Superbowl.
He’s missed two games and two games in the past two weeks, but the Patriots are expected to keep him fresh and healthy.
The Pats won’t need to rush the ball much, with Brady having thrown for 3,845 yards and 25 touchdowns and Manning with 3,634 yards and 24 touchdowns in the first half.
New York’s offense has scored the fewest points in the league and is allowing the fewth most points in football.
The Patriots are averaging 34.5 points per contest.