INDIANAPOLIS -- The best team in football will be at the RCA Dome on Sunday, and it won't be the Indianapolis Colts.
That sentence might not sit well with Indianapolis fans, but it won't be an insult to the Colts -- at least not to the Colts who spoke to the media Wednesday. To a man, they all said basically the same thing about New England, which will bring an 8-0 record and the most complete team in recent NFL history to the RCA Dome.
Said Colts safety Bob Sanders: "They're playing great football. Right now I would say they're the best team in football."
|Former Patriot Adam Vinatieri takes part in the New England drool-fest. (US Presswire)|
Said Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri: "They're on pace to break just about every stat that there is. We know we're going to have to play our best game and play error-free to compete with them."
This is what teams generally do before big games, of course. They talk up the other team. But if the Colts were only pretending to be in awe of the Patriots, they'd be more convincing on a stage than on a football field. And on a football field, the Colts are awfully convincing in their own right. Indianapolis is 7-0 and features an MVP candidate on offense (Manning) and defense (Sanders). Indianapolis is beating teams by more than 17 points per game. Indianapolis is awesome.
But New England is better. On paper, anyway. And the Colts seem to know it.
Colts coach Tony Dungy literally bit his lower lip to stop from laughing when told the Patriots' Bill Belichick had said the Colts were the best team in football. Dungy gnawed on his lip for about four seconds before responding, "I hope he's a prophet."
At Patriots headquarters earlier Wednesday, Belichick also had said the Patriots "aren't in (the Colts') league." He was right, though he didn't mean it this way: The Colts are in the NFL; the Patriots belong on a higher plane.
Three days before the first game in NFL history between two teams at 7-0 or better, the Colts seemed impressed with the Patriots, yet not uptight. An enormous Nerf hoop was in the middle of the locker room. Players were joking about the thick copies of the 2006-2012 collective bargaining agreement that were handed out before practice.
"I'll never read it," fullback Luke Lawton said. "In this whole locker room, I bet (player rep) Jeff Saturday is the only one who does."
The only sign of tension was Dungy's decision to close practice to the media, something he hadn't done since last season's playoffs. Veteran members of the local media said they couldn't remember the last time Dungy closed practice in the regular season. An uptight, paranoid coach closes practice to the media. But so would a game-playing coach who wants the other team to wonder what the hell is happening behind closed doors.
Asked why he had done it, Dungy said: "We're going to the wishbone. ... We're changing everything around and coming out with new stuff and don't want anybody to know."