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What we learned: Pats and Colts didn't disappoint

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We learned back in April, when the 2007 NFL schedule was first released, that New England at Indianapolis would be the marquee matchup of Week 9. It seems as if talk of this game began all the way back then, heated up somewhat in the preseason, and has kept rising over the past eight weeks. It is finally reaching a boiling point this week, as the Patriots and Colts are providing fans with the first-ever meeting between teams that have a combined record of 15-0. The previous high took place Nov. 15, 1921, when the Buffalo All-Americans (6-0) hosted the Akron Pros (7-0).

That game was not without its luminaries. Akron's co-coach was Pro Football Hall of Famer Fritz Pollard, and one of the Buffalo players was Lou Little, who went on to coach Columbia University to one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history.

Anyway, the Akron-Buffalo game ended in a 0-0 tie before an unannounced total crowd. That won't be the case here, as two of the NFL's top offenses face off before what is sure to be a standing room only crowd.

New England is the highest-scoring team in the NFL with 331 points in eight games; Indianapolis is second in the AFC behind the Patriots with 224 points in seven games. Heading into Week 8, New England ranked first in the NFL on offense and fourth on defense; the Colts were third on offense and third on defense.

These teams started playing each other in 1970, when the Patriots were in Boston and the Colts were in Baltimore. As AFC East rivals, they met twice a year from 1970 to 2001 (except for 1982 when they met once due to the strike). The Patriots lead the series, 41-26.

In New England's 52-7 win over Joe Gibbs and the Redskins, the Patriots scored the most points and had the largest margin of victory ever against a Gibbs-coached team. The Patriots have already scored as many or more points this season than 17 teams scored all of last season. They've outscored opponents this season by 204 points (25.5 per game). In 2006, the Chargers had the greatest margin of victory for the season with a 189-point differential.

Tony Dungy has 74 regular-season wins with the Colts, making him the winningest coach in franchise history -- the previous mark of 73 had been shared by Don Shula and Ted Marchibroda. Dungy is also the first head coach in NFL history to be the winningest head coach for two franchises -- he currently holds the mark at Tampa Bay with 56 (Jon Gruden is not far off that number, though, with 43 regular-season wins for the Bucs).

When it comes to comparing the records of the two coaches in this week's big game, the numbers are extremely close: Dungy has 121 regular-season wins; Bill Belichick has 119. If you include the playoffs and Super Bowl, Belichick leads with 132 wins; Dungy has 130.

The Colts have won 11 straight dating back to last season. Since 1999, there have been 19 winning streaks of eight games or more in the NFL -- and the Colts have been involved in five of them.

Peyton Manning, with two touchdown passes against Carolina, passed Johnny Unitas to become the team's career leader in that category. Unitas had 287 TD passes in 17 seasons. Manning has 288 midway through his tenth. Manning has now beaten all 31 NFL teams.

The Colts became the first team since the Packers in 1929-31 to win their first seven games for three consecutive years. During Packers' streak, however, 18 of the 21 games were played at home (and in '31, all seven were at home).

Extra points

Now for some quick non-Pats/Colts stuff…

Week 8 of the 2006 season featured 11 players that rushed for 100 or more yards. Unless Green Bay's Vernand Morency surprisingly tops 100 yards on Monday night, then none of last year's 11 will have duplicated that feat in Week 8 of this season. ... In his first six games this season, Bills WR Lee Evans had a total of 211 receiving yards. Against the Jets Sunday, he had 138 yards and a touchdown -- the first touchdown reception by a Bills receiver this season. ... Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski kicked his 178th career field goal, the most in team history. ... A few weeks ago, we speculated that if the Bears and Saints could fight their way back into the mix, then their regular-season finale in Chicago could be for a playoff spot. Now, however, it looks as if the Saints could be playing for a division title at that point and the Bears could already be out of contention. The reason for the Saints' turnaround? Pretty simple: Drew Brees has stopped throwing interceptions and started throwing touchdowns. ... I'm sure a solid coach like Houston's Gary Kubiak works on all sorts of special scenarios throughout the preseason, which makes it astounding that Texans punter Matt Turk didn't think to knock the ball out of the end zone on the botched punt attempt that resulted in a Chargers touchdown.

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