Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are in a familiar position – one step away from the Super Bowl.
It’s not entirely unfamiliar territory to the Indianapolis Colts, though it is for Andrew Luck.
Luck’s Colts have been blown out all three times he has faced the Patriots and will go into Sunday’s AFC championship game as prohibitive underdogs in New England.
Brady will set a league record with a ninth conference championship appearance in his 13th full season. Belichick is seeking his NFL record 21st postseason victory, which would break a tie with legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.
A victory would give the Patriots an eighth Super Bowl appearance and tie them with Pittsburgh and Dallas for the most in league history.
“We’re very fortunate to be in this position to have a chance to play in it,” Brady said. “I think more so than anything, you’re just excited for the opportunity to be able to do it. It’s hard to do and our team found a way to get there this year so hopefully we can take advantage of the opportunity.”
The Patriots have outscored the Colts 144-66 in going 3-0 against them since Luck came into the league in 2012. That includes a 43-22 rout in a divisional playoff game last season and a 42-20 road win Nov. 16.
Luck led the NFL with 40 passing touchdowns and has guided the Colts into a fifth conference championship since the franchise moved to Indianapolis and his first. This is the third time these teams will meet for the AFC crown as they split matchups in the 2003 and 2006 season in which the winner went on to capture the Super Bowl.
The Colts were, of course, guided by Peyton Manning in those games. Luck served notice that he has had no trouble shouldering the burden of replacing Manning in Indianapolis by outplaying the Denver quarterback in Sunday’s 24-13 divisional road victory.
”I think we’re playing good team ball,” said Luck, who threw for 265 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. ”We’re feeding off each other. Offensively we’re making enough plays to put some points on the board.”
Luck has a 53.8 completion percentage, a 67.7 passer rating and six touchdowns to eight interceptions in three games against New England. His interception percentage of 6.2 versus the Patriots – including the one postseason game – is his worst against any opponent he has faced more than once.