Patriots-Colts stirring Super Bowl-like intrigue

No one has been talking about the unbeaten defending Super Bowl champions through eight weeks of the NFL season. The Indianapolis Colts have been playing incredible football and find themselves in a most unique position today in the biggest regular-season game in many years.

The Colts are 51/2-point home underdogs to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The last time Indianapolis was not a home favorite was Week 15 of the 2001 season, when it lost a pick-’em game 29-28 to the New York Jets. Before that, the last time the Colts were not favored at home was in the first week of the 1999 season, Peyton Manning’s sophomore campaign. They beat Buffalo 31-14 as 3-point underdogs.

Further indication of the perception that New England is the better team can be found in the proposition wager for either team to go unbeaten in the regular season. The Patriots are 2-1; the Colts are 14-1.

After this colossal matchup, New England will be a three-touchdown favorite on two occasions, in excess of a two-TD favorite twice, not quite a 14-point favorite twice and, in the season finale, about a 10-point road favorite against the New York Giants.

The Colts face a tough test next week at San Diego, where they might be underdogs.

The oddsmakers are impressed with what the Colts are accomplishing this season but can’t avoid the fact that New England is superior by a healthy margin when it comes to their power ratings.

“I have improved my power rating for the Colts by one full point over what they were when they won the Super Bowl,” Mike Seba of Las Vegas Sports Consultants said. “They’re a much more balanced team than we’ve seen from them in the past.”

From a motivational angle, New England is on a mission to crush every foe to solidify its legacy following the “Spygate” ordeal that smeared coach Bill Belichick.

“Watching them play, there is no doubt that New England has a vendetta against the league and every opponent they face, with a scorched-earth mentality they take on the field with them,” LVSC odds director Tony Sinisi said.

Indianapolis is sick of hearing about the Patriots’ prowess. The Colts have been playing the past few weeks as if they had a stone in their shoe, relishing the opportunity to settle the issue on the field.

The ironic aspect of this game for me is the prevailing opinion that Indianapolis has to be committed to the run and shorten the game to hang with this New England juggernaut. Isn’t that the compelling argument that every other team makes on the way into a game against the Colts?

How big is this game? One need only look in the rack at sports books around town to find a multitude of prop bets. It has been well documented that come Super Bowl time, in the neighborhood of 300 unique in-game wagers are offered. During the regular season, a handful generally are created for the Sunday night and Monday games.

Dan O’Brien is the man at LVSC whose life comes to a screeching halt, creating the laundry list of props for the Super Bowl. He’s calling on all of his prop skills for today’s Patriots-Colts matchup.

“We’ll have Brady-Manning head-to-head props, wagers that revolve around receptions, rushing yardage and who will score first and last for both individuals and the teams,” he said. “In total, we’ll send out in the neighborhood of 50 prop bets for this game.”

Contestants in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest are intrigued and split on the game. The Colts are this week’s top consensus pick with 98 entrants on their side, and 79 contestants chose the Patriots as the fifth-most popular team.

Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at bblessing@lvsc.com. Hear the LVSC oddsmakers on Sportsbook Radio, weekdays at 4 p.m. on KENO-AM (1460).

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