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Setting the scene: Patriots-Colts

12.04.11 at 10:18 am ET
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Jerod Mayo graces the cover of Patriots Gameday as the Colts pay a visit. (Mike Petraglia, WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Sunny skies and pleasant temperatures in the low 50s are expected for the first 1 p.m. kickoff (CBS, WBZ-TV) of the season at Gillette Stadium as the 8-3 Patriots host the 0-11 Colts. This is the ninth straight season the two longtime AFC rivals have met in the regular season. Despite Indianapolis going through an abysmal season, it’s also a streak that will grow to 10 since the Patriots are scheduled to play all four AFC South teams in 2012.

The field is freshly painted after six Massachusetts high school Super Bowl games were held on the field on Saturday. Crews worked overnight to lay down new lines on the field and the electric fans were in full motion until just before 10 a.m. to dry the paint.

This is the first time the Patriots have faced the Colts without Peyton Manning under center since Nov. 30, 1997 at old Foxboro Stadium, when the Patriots beat current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Colts, 21-16 at the RCA Dome, when the Colts were still AFC East rivals of New England. Appropriately, the Colts fell to 1-12 that day while the Patriots improved to 8-5 on their way to the playoffs.

In the 19 games since then, the Patriots managed a 12-7 record against Manning, including 2-1 in the playoffs.

Manning did make the trip to Foxboro after getting an exam on his surgically repaired neck this week. He will be on the sidelines trying to offer help Dan Orlovsky, who is the third Colts starting quarterback this season. Kerry Collins started and lost the first three games before getting hurt. Curtis Painter went winless in his eight chances as starter.

There is a great deal of symmetry here as Tom Brady made his first career NFL start against the Colts on Sept. 30, 2001 at Foxboro Stadium when he led the Patriots to a 44-13 pounding of the Colts. He is 6-3 in his regular season career against Indy, with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and a career passer rating of 99.0.

As for injuries on the Patriots side of the ball, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is out with a right foot injury. He will be replaced by one of two rookies. Nate Solder could start in that spot or Marcus Cannon, who made his debut against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 21, could get his first NFL start if the Patriots choose to keep Solder in as a tackle eligible on power plays, like third-and-short.

Nick McDonald was signed off the practice squad on Saturday afternoon and will be active this afternoon, providing insurance at center for Dan Connolly (groin) and Ryan Wendell (calf), both of whom are trying to play through nagging injuries.

The Patriots are a remarkable 37-5 in the month of December since 2001. The next-closest team in the NFL, over that span, is Philadelphia, which is 32-12. Three of those five losses have come to the Dolphins and the Patriots are 18-1 in the month of December at Gillette since the stadium opened in 2002.

Read More: Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, EMass Super Bowls, Indianapolis Colts
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