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Colts-Patriots rivalry enters a new phase

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The Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots used to face off in the playoffs all the time. As such, the Colts and Patriots should feel total deja vu when they meet in the divisional playoffs on Jan. 11. Yet this is new territory for Indianapolis and New England anyway, since this is their first postseason duel that doesn't pit Tom Brady against Peyton Manning.

Instead, Brady and Andrew Luck will duel for the first time in the playoffs, and second time overall. Luck certainly wants to have more luck than in his 59-24 defeat in New England last year -- and more than Manning did in most of his postseason battles with the Patriots.

Brady and the Patriots have been virtually perfect against the Colts in the playoffs, with the glaring exception of the 2007 AFC title game. Nevertheless, these aren't the Colts of old and these technically aren't the Patriots of old either.

New England needed several comebacks just to get to 12 wins and a bye, although none of those rallies had anything on Indianapolis's 38-10 comeback over the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 4. The old Patriots and Colts didn't need these lucky breaks to get this far, and weren't as inconsistent as these versions have been all year.

Will the Colts team that stunned the Chiefs and beat the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks show up -- or will they become the squad that struggled against sub .500 teams and were steamrolled by the Chiefs for 30+ minutes? Likewise, can the Patriots look like the Super Bowl champions of old, or the team that now regularly loses at home in the postseason?

Regardless, this will be unlike any Indianapolis-New England showdown of the modern era -- not just because Luck is in Manning's place. Of course, not only can Luck and the Colts prevent another Brady-Manning meeting in the AFC title game, they can get in place to face their old quarterback themselves next week.

First, Indianapolis has to beat its oldest rival at 8:15 p.m. est on CBS.

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