In the mid-to-late 2000s, there was arguably no greater rivalry than Colts vs. Patriots. It started a couple of years earlier, though it was hardly a rivalry then, as New England dominated the series and knocked Indianapolis out of the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. In fact, from 2001 through the 2004 playoffs, the Patriots won all six of the meetings between the two teams.
Then, however, the Colts notched a big win in New England in the 2005 regular season and from then through 2010 the Colts won 5 of 7 games against the Patriots, including an AFC title game. It was during this time period that the teams really became huge rivals and it was during this period that the rivalry became one of the best in the NFL. Honestly, though, it was always a rivalry between the game's two best quarterbacks. The Colts had Peyton Manning while the Patriots had Tom Brady. That rivalry has continued on to Denver now, as Manning quarterbacks the Broncos now. In fact, we saw the matchup in week nine this year, with Brady's team edging out Manning's team.
The question is this: are the Colts and Patriots still considered rivals? The last time the Colts beat the Patriots was in 2009, in that memorable comeback win that featured Bill Belichick's 4th-and-2 decision and a game-winning touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne in the final seconds. The Patriots won a shootout the following year, 31-28, and just like that the Manning vs. Brady rivalry was done with the Indianapolis chapter (being continued now while Manning is with Denver). Only 12 players on the Patriots' roster were there in 2009, and six of them were in their first year with the Patriots in that season. One of those players is on injured reserve now, so only eleven players suiting up for New England this weekend were on the team for that 2009 Colts victory, and many had small roles (or none at all). For the Colts, only five players on the current roster were also with the Colts in 2009, and only three of them will suit up Sunday night. Furthermore, only six players were with the Colts for a single game between Manning and Brady. Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, Adam Vinatieri, Fili Moala, Pat McAfee, and Joe Reitz are those six players, and Mathis and Moala are both out for the year with injuries. Here's my point: there aren't many players from either team that were a big part of those Colts vs. Patriots games in the midst of the rivalry.
Furthermore, with Andrew Luck at quarterback the Colts are 0-2 against the Patriots, including playoffs - and neither game has been that close. The Colts lost in 2011 without Manning or Luck (Dan Orlovsky was the quarterback), and in fact you have to go all the way back to 1995, when Jim Harbaugh was quarterbacking the Colts, to find the last time Indianapolis beat the Patriots. The Colts actually won both games that year against New England, including the season finale on December 23 as they defeated the Patriots 10-7 in the RCA Dome. That was the last time a Colts team without Peyton Manning under center beat the Patriots. Now, certainly, that's a very skewed statistic because between this is just the sixth season without Peyton as quarterback for the Colts since that time, but they have lost the last seven games against the Patriots without Peyton.
I think we all know that the heart of the Colts vs. Patriots rivalry of the 2000s was Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. That much is pretty clear. Now, without Peyton, are the Colts and Patriots still considered rivals? I can't speak for Patriots fans, but if you ask any Colts fan they'll still tell you how much they dislike the Patriots and how much they want to beat them. And certainly, speaking as a fan, there isn't another team I'd rather the Colts beat than the Patriots. But as an analyst, I don't really think this is a rivalry anymore. Perhaps the Colts can change that on Sunday night with a win, but right now this is a "rivalry" that is very much one sided and without much to it. Whether or not this matchup will become a rivalry again in the final few years of the Brady era is largely dependent upon how Andrew Luck plays and whether the Colts can notch a win this Sunday night. But right now, while Colts fans still absolutely consider the Patriots a rival and want to beat them, I'm not sure there's actually much to the rivalry anymore.
What are YOUR thoughts? Are the Colts and Patriots still rivals?