Column: Colts, Packers haven’t done well lately against next opponents

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick return to the AFC championship game for a ninth time together next Sunday when they play the Indianapolis Colts.

— Peyton Manning down. Tom Brady to go.

That’s the task the Indianapolis Colts are facing after advancing to the AFC championship game for the first time since 2009. They got the best of one future Hall of Fame quarterback Sunday with their 24-13 victory over Manning’s Denver Broncos.

Sunday, they’ll square off against Brady, who will be playing in his ninth conference title game, for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. As for the Colts? Andrew Luck is on his first, and his team has been blown out by New England twice in the last year.

“Hall of Fame coach, Hall of Fame quarterback,” Colts Coach Chuck Pagano said Sunday, referring to Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and Brady. “We all know how hard it is to win up there, so we’re going to worry about us.”


There are parallels in the NFC. Green Bay, which is back in the championship game for the first time since 2010, will hit the road to face the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Like all four of the remaining quarterbacks, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is two victories away from lifting the Lombardi Trophy overhead.

“I think I’ve got 120 minutes left in me,” Rodgers said Sunday.

The Seahawks easily brushed aside the Packers in this season’s Kickoff Opener, a 36-16 defeat in which Rodgers never threw in the direction of All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and finished with 189 yards with a touchdown and an interception.


It seemed the Packers’ No. 12 was rattled by the 12th Man, or at least that’s what some Seahawks players said.

“The loudness of the stadium made him a little queasy out there,” Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said at the time.

The Seahawks could see a more confident Eddie Lacy than they did in September. Lacy, who rushed for 101 yards Sunday in the Packers’ victory over Dallas, was stymied against the Seahawks and eventually wound up sidelined because of a concussion.

“Lacy?” Bennett said at the time. “He had 12 carries for 34 yards, I could do that. It was just another offensive player.”


So the Packers have plenty of bulletin-board fodder for this one, and they don’t even have to reach back to the so-called “Fail Mary” game in 2012, when Green Bay lost on a hotly disputed touchdown pass at the end, a play that was ruled a catch by replacement officials but looked far more like a Packers interception.

There was no such controversial finish the last two times the Colts and Patriots played. New England routed visiting Indianapolis, 43-22, in a divisional game a year ago, picking off four passes by Luck and getting four touchdowns from running back LeGarrette Blount. And the Patriots didn’t even have star tight end Rob Gronkowski in that rout.

The Colts lost to the Patriots in Week 11 this season, this time getting embarrassed at home, 42-20. Little-known New England running back Jonas Gray had four touchdowns and torched the Indianapolis defense for 201 yards rushing. The game was competitive until halftime.

Asked whether he has grown since then, Luck said: “I’d like to think I’m a better quarterback and we’re a better team and more well-equipped to handle the unknown and the unforeseen.”


Like Rodgers, surely Luck has 120 more minutes of football in him.

But does either quarterback have a 180-degree turn up his sleeve?