Patriots Over the Colts by 3

After devising a game plan that completely shut down Denver in a 24-13 Colts win last week – and led to the termination of the Broncos’ entire coaching staff – Indianapolis head man Chuck Pagano sets his sights on even bigger game: New England’s implacable, steely-eyed Bill Belichick. And while those who stalk ‘The Hoodie’ on the turf of his own Gillette Stadium hood seldom succeed in bagging the prize, our database doesn’t hesitate to recommend a play on Pagano’s team this evening. For openers, conference title game losers from the previous year (Patriots) have found it extremely diffi cult reversing their losing ways, going 2-11 SU and 3-10 ATS, including 0-9 SU and 1-8 ATS when facing .722 or greater opponents. Belichick himself may have amassed a 194-73 SU record since taking over at New England 15 seasons ago, but he owns just a 5-3 SU and 3-5 ATS slate in championship affairs, including five straight pointspread failures in his last five games. He is also 0-5 ATS in title games after scoring 24 or more points in divisional round games, and 0-5 ATS off three spread losses in a row when facing greater-than .666 foes. Meanwhile, conference championship contenders like Indy that arrive off a road win preceded by a victory at home are 8-4 SU and 10-2 ATS since 1998, including 6-0 ATS as an underdog of 4 or more points. Patriot backers are still buzzing over Tom Brady’s 367-yard, 4-TD performance against Baltimore but Colts QB Andrew Luck seems to save his best for big games, going 5-1 SUATS as an underdog in his NFL career versus opponents with a win percentage of more than .750. As for the seldom-mentioned Indianapolis defense, they gave up only 288 yards to the Broncos and have held two of their last three opponents to season-low yards. Hey, we’d actually like the Colts to pull the outright upset here if not for the fact that New England is 10-0 SU in its last 10 games versus AFC South opponents. Still, we can’t back a ‘leaking oil’ favorite like the Patriots that’s been outgained in each of their last three games – and not when over half of the 33 teams in this round who put 34 or more points on the scoreboard in a divisional round victory fell short of the Super Bowl, going 16-17 SU and 10-22-1 ATS. WithIndy HC Pagano a solid 22-7 SU and 21-7-1 ATS in games with a posted O/U total of 45 or more points, we’ll take the dog in this closer-than-expected slugfest.