1. Manning vs. Machine
Peyton Manning of the Colts has a reputation as a playoff choker. Tom Brady of the Patriots has won fame as a postseason achiever. Both reputations are well-earned. . . . Manning has a 5-6 record in postseason games with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In three of his victories, Manning passed for 12 touchdowns with just one interception. He is 4-12 in the other games. Brady is 12-1 in postseason starts with 19 TDS and 8 INTs. His only loss was last year in the divisional round at Denver. Even then he passed for 341 yards with one TD and two interceptions.
2. Starvin' Marvin
Would anybody have believed that two rounds into the AFC playoffs, Jabbar Gaffney of the Patriots would have more receptions (18) for more yards (207) than the Colts' Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne combined (16 for 108)? Harrison has 85 TD receptions in 172 regular season games but has not caught a TD pass in his last seven in the postseason. He has only two TD receptions in 11 career postseason games. . . . Wayne has five TD catches in nine career postseason games. The Colts miss third receiver Brandon Stokley. It leaves Manning with Aaron Morehead or tight end Dallas Clark as a third option. . . . New England was supposed to lack championship caliber receivers but Reche Caldwell and Gaffney have combined for 30 catches for 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns this postseason.
3. Secondaries are primary
Given the intelligence and abilities of the quarterbacks, it figures to be a difficult day for both defensive backfields. Manning won't miss not having to face Ty Law and Rodney Harrison in the New England secondary. Of his 13 postseason interceptions, they have made seven of them. The Patriots probably will use their best corner, Asante Samuel (10 regular season interceptions), against Harrison today. That will leave 5-foot-9 Ellis Hobbs against Wayne, a strong 6-footer. . . . Indy's corners are Nick Harper, who had a big game at Baltimore last week, and Marlin Jackson. They will get help from safeties Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea, a sixth-round draft find from Howard University.
4. Group effort
Running back by committee is supposed to be a no-no, but both the Colts and Patriots make it work. Rookie RB Joseph Addai ran for 1,081 yards and seven TDs for the Colts, even though he never started. Dominic Rhodes, the nominal starter, ran for 641 with five TDs. Both are excellent receivers. . . . The Patriots made a three-headed running back situation work. Corey Dillon (812 yards, 13 TDs) is strong in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Rookie Laurence Maroney (745 yards) offers a change of pace with his explosiveness. Kevin Faulk is an experienced third-down back who thrives in the postseason.
5. Adam had 'em
Adam Vinatieri, who helped kick the Patriots to their three Super Bowl championships, was let go and signed with the Colts. He made 25 of 28 in the regular season and is 8 for 8 in postseason. . . . The Pats haven't missed Vinatieri -- yet. Fourth-round draft pick Stephen Gostkowski made 20 of 26 in the regular season and is 6 of 6 in the postseason.
Outlook: Manning, at home with Vinatieri on his side, finally gets the Colts to the Super Bowl. Indy, 33-30.