The 2014 version of the Indianapolis Colts have gotten hot at the right time, it's pretty safe to say. Their two best games of the season so far have come in the last two weeks, both in the playoffs as they've defeated the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos to advance to play in the AFC Championship game. Entering the playoffs, the Colts weren't expected to do much at all, so it's a surprise (pleasantly, for Colts fans) to see the team get here.
In some ways, the situation is similar to another one from Colts' history. Think back to 2006. The Colts were not expected to do much at all in the playoffs, but they got hot at the right time and defeated the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens to advance to the AFC Championship game.
And the opponent that the Colts will face this Sunday in the AFC Championship game is the same opponent that the Colts faced in the AFC Championship game in the 2006 season - the New England Patriots.
In the first game of the playoffs in the 2006 season, the Colts hosted the 9-7 Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs' quarterbacks had completed 60.4% of their passes for 3,243 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 picks and were led by their running game - as they had accounted for 2,143 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. In the first game of the playoffs this year, the Colts hosted the 10-5-1 Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were quarterbacked by Andy Dalton, who completed 64.2% of his passes for 3,398 yards and 19 touchdowns with 17 picks. The Bengals were led by their running game, which had accounted for 2,147 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. In both seasons, the Colts defeated the run-based Wild Card team - they beat the Chiefs 23-8 and the Bengals 26-10.
Then in the second game of the playoffs in 2006, the Colts headed on the road to face the 13-3 Baltimore Ravens, the number two seed in the AFC playoffs. In 2014, the Colts headed on the road to face the 12-4 Denver Broncos, the number two seed in the AFC playoffs. The Colts defeated the Ravens 15-6 in a hard-fought road win and the Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13 in a hard-fought road win.
And then in both seasons, the Colts went on to face the New England Patriots in the AFC title game. Of course, the game years ago goes down as the greatest game in Indianapolis Colts history, as the team came back to win 38-34 in a huge thrilling win. That game was in Indianapolis, this year's game will be in New England. Maybe the similarities will end this weekend. But if the Colts manage to win, they'll live on in an even bigger way.
All season long, as we talked and talked about how the Colts didn't look like a great team there were fans who would remind of the 2006 season. And the answer many gave in response to that was that, "Bob Sanders isn't walking through the door this time" like he did in 2006, as his return sparked the Colts' defense. But there definitely are similarities: in both seasons the Colts weren't expected to do much in the playoffs, and in both seasons the Colts got hot at the right time, played their best football in the playoffs, and notched two wins - at home against a team who's strength was the run game and then on the road against the number two seed - to advance to play the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
There are differences too, absolutely - but let's hope that the similarities continue to extend to this weekend's game against the Patriots.