News & Notes From Colts-Patriots AFC Divisional Round Matchup

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Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

In the ultimate troll job, Indianapolis signed former Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch mere days before the teams meet for an opportunity to go to the AFC Championship game. Adding even more to the trolls around the football world, Indianapolis failed to mention who it had signed when publicly addressing a roster move. Branch is well over a calendar year removed from being a member of the Patriots, but he surely has some inside information on the Josh McDaniels-led offense. This is also an indication that Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was injured in the wild card victory over Kansas City last week, will not be ready to go.

Speaking of McDaniels, he confirmed that an interview took place between himself and the Cleveland Browns for their vacant head coaching position during New England bye week, per CBS Sports. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The two sides have been linked since Cleveland prematurely fired Rob Chudzinski after less than a calendar year on the job. It will, however, be interesting to see if Cleveland goes back to well in New England under the guidance of a new front office and ownership group. Remember the flying Mangini’s? Yeah… 

Though, McDaniels has since said no thank you to the Browns opening, making him reportedly the third different head coaching candidate to turn away from the Browns coaching opening.

Andrew Luck is looking to do something that his predecessor Peyton Manning never did as a member of the Indianapolis Colts…defeat Tom Brady and the Patriots on the road in the playoffs. Manning was 0-2 in such games with one touchdown and five interceptions. The sledding will be difficult considering that Brady is 11-3 at home during the postseason. With that being said, all three of his losses have come in his last six home playoff starts. Luck lost his first and only road playoff start last season to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens 24-9.

Logan Mankins and Alfonzo Dennard returned to practice for the Patriots on Tuesday. The offensive lineman injured his ankle in New England’s Week 17 victory against the Buffalo Bills, while Dennard missed the finale with a knee injury. These are two important pieces to the puzzle for the Patriots entering Saturday night. Dennard, a second-year player from Nebraska, played an average of 56 snaps in the 13 games he suited up, while Mankins was among the best run-blocking guards in the NFL during the regular year.

Speaking of injuries, Patriots rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson was a no show at practice on Wednesday due to a lingering foot injury he suffered in Week 17. Indications are that Dobson will miss Saturdays game against the Colts, which would be rather huge. Fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins would be tasked with taking on a larger role should Dobson be unable to go. Dobson is officially listed as questionable.

In the 35 years of the Patriots franchise until Robert Kraft took over some 20 years ago, they made the playoffs just six times and earned two division. In the two decades since the Kraft family has taken over, New England has earned 15 trips to the postseason and won a ridiculous 13 AFC East titles. Talk about leadership from the top down. Nearly as impressive, the Colts franchise earned just three postseason trips in a 21-year span from 1978-1998, before Peyton Manning took over. Indianapolis has now made the playoffs in all but two of the last 16 seasons.

Colts’ general manager Ryan Grigson compared quarterback Andrew Luck to former Chicago Bulls’ great Michael Jordan on Wednesday. While fine and dandy, Luck may want to win at least one world championship before he is compared to an all-time cross-sport great that possesses six titles. One 28-point comeback, no matter how impressive, doesn’t compare even the greatest quarterbacks in the league today.

We will have more stories on this AFC semi-final matchup as the game draws closer.