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Ben Smith

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Colts not awestruck by playing Patriots

– The temperature in the tiny hamlet of Foxborough, Mass., is supposed to hover in the balmy 40s tonight, with rain in the forecast and likely some wind about.

So, no, we are not likely to discover at what point condescension freezes.

It’s been poor little Colts this and poor little Colts that coming out of Boston this week, as the Patriots prepared to pat that nice Andrew Luck on the head and then send him home in sandwich bags. The Patriots themselves would never say it – getting an honest word out of Bill Belichick’s Kremlin would require the Jaws of Life – but the Boston media is supremely confident these Midwest interlopers will be no match for the god-like Pats.

The Patriots are ready to dance to the Waltz of the Tomato Cans straight into the AFC Championship game, columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote this week, in a typical example. I mean, all they have to do is beat the Indianapolis Colts? Seriously …

On and on. Andrew Luck, it is suggested, “is not ready for Bill Belichick in the playoffs.” And Chuck Pagano, while a good guy and all, “will be swallowed up like Gary Kubiak, John Fox, Sean Payton, Jack Del Rio, Marty Schottenheimer, and Belichick’s personal stooge, Greg Schiano.”

Well, perhaps. After all, going hand-to-hand with leukemia is small business compared to the daunting task of going into Foxborough’s Fortress of Solitude, where Tom Brady, his Superman cape whipping in the wind, stands ready to hurl magic crystals from doomed Krypton at the poor Colts.

Or something like that.

It’s this sort of contempt that makes great indignant wallpaper in opposing locker rooms, not that indignation is sustainable fuel in the NFL. In the end, as always, it’s going to come down to players making plays: Robert Mathis, the NFL’s reigning sack king, getting enough heat on Brady to make him uncomfortable (which can be done), and Luck avoiding the mistakes a not-exactly-juggernaut Patriots team desperately needs to win these days, and the Colts finding a running game on a night they’ll likely need one.

If all that happens, the Colts have a shot. If it doesn’t, not so much.

In the meantime, simple logic says this likely won’t be a repeat of the Patriots’ 59-24 lashing of the Colts in Foxborough a year ago, when Luck threw three picks and lost a fumble and New England feasted. History is a useful guide but not always a reliable one; witness last week, when the Colts needed a miracle to beat the Chiefs at home two weeks after dominating them in Kansas City.

“I think obviously we know them, they know us from an organizational standpoint,” Pagano said this week. “(But) there’s been so much turnover (from years past). In today’s NFL, that’s kind of how it is.”

Sure. Luck, for one thing, is a different animal, more prone to mistakes at this point than his predecessor, but also more laidback, which makes him less vulnerable to Belichick’s mind-bending schemes.

“I went back and watched that (59-24) game,” Luck said this week, sounding no more perturbed about that than he would have over a botched lunch order. “Obviously, that has no bearing on this year or the game. … We know it’s going to be a dogfight. That’s what the playoffs are about.”

Speaking of which, the Patriots have never lost to the Colts in the playoffs in Foxborough. Which no doubt sent a shiver up a lot of spines this week at the Colts’ complex.

Oh, wait. That was just the wind chill.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.