Already favored by a touchdown by Las Vegas casinos, experts from many of the country’s top sports outlets have picked the New England Patriots to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium.
Experts from ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, USA Today and IBTimes have resoundingly picked the Patriots to beat the Colts and earn the eighth Super Bowl appearance in the franchise's history.
Of the 34 experts below, 28 predicted the Patriots will advance.
Led by quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, who together have made five Super Bowls and won three, the Patriots are coming off a narrow 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional round last week.
Down by 14 points twice in the matchup, Brady capped a 10-play, 74-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon LaFell with 5:13 remaining to seal the win over Baltimore.
But the Colts are coming off an impressive win of their own, besting the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos with a convincing 24-13 victory and their first appearance in the conference title game since 2009. That was the same year they last went to the Super Bowl.
Quarterback Andrew Luck did counter his two touchdowns with two interceptions, but the Indianapolis defense was able to hold one of the NFL’s highest scoring offenses to 288 total yards and a single touchdown drive.
Injuries could certainly play a role, but as of now both sides are quite healthy. New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow) and cornerback Brandon Browner (knee) were all limited in practice this week but are listed as probable on the team’s official injury report.
Brady (ankle) was also on the report, but he fully participated in practice this week, and he’s been on the report since Week 6 with the same injury. Only rookie center Bryan Stork will be out against the Colts, suffering a knee injury in the second quarter against Baltimore last week. Belichick put offensive lineman Josh Kline in at guard and shifted guard Ryan Wendell over to center, a move he could repeat against the Colts.
The Colts defense is technically banged up, but no reports indicate any of their top defenders will miss out on Sunday’s game. Cornerbacks Vontae Davis (knee) and Greg Toler (groin) are both listed as questionable, while outside linebacker Erik Walden (knee) is probable.
Currently there is no status update on inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson or veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, but they were held out completely or partially during practice for rest.
Mike Garafolo, Fox Sports: Colts
Alex Marvez, Fox Sports: Patriots
Peter Schrager, Fox Sports: Patriots
Brendon Ayanbadejo, Fox Sports: Patriots
Jimmy Traina, Fox Sports: Patriots
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Patriots
Mike Golic, ESPN: Patriots
Merrill Hoge, ESPN: Colts
Ron Jaworski, ESPN: Patriots
Chris Mortensen, ESPN: Patriots
Adam Schefter, ESPN: Patriots
Mark Schlereth, ESPN: Patriots
Tom Jackson, ESPN: Patriots
Keyshawn Johnson, ESPN: Patriots
Mike Ditka, ESPN: Colts
Cris Carter, ESPN: Patriots
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Colts
Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports: Patriots
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Patriots
Jared Dubin, CBS Sports: Patriots
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Colts
John Breech, CBS Sports: Colts
Dave Richard, CBS Sports: Patriots
Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Sports: Patriots
Jarrett Bell, USA Today: Patriots
Jim Corbett, USA Today: Patriots
Nate Davis, USA Today: Patriots
Lindsay H. Jones, USA Today: Patriots
Gary Mihoces, USA Today: Patriots
Tom Pelissero, USA Today: Patriots
Lorenzo Reyes, USA Today: Patriots
Bobby Ilich, IB Times: Patriots
Greg Price, IB Times: Patriots
Anthony Riccobono, IB Times: Patriots