Game of the Week: Patriots face Colts looking for Deflategate revenge

No one knows how to fuel a team off hate like Bill Belichick.

The Patriots coach loves to talk about ignoring the noise. Except, of course, when the things being written or said about his players can be used to motivate them. He’s not above taking a newspaper clipping, attaching a fake, salacious headline above it, and posting it in the locker room.

Hate is good. Hate motivates. Hate can be focused, controlled and unleashed.

Belichick hasn’t had to manufacture those emotions this season. His team had months of listening to questions about deflated footballs and was told that last year’s Super Bowl title was sullied. And the team that started all of that, the Indianapolis Colts, will be hosting New England this week.

The Colts, of course, are alleged to have notified the NFL about the Patriots using deflated footballs during last year’s playoffs. And New England, of course, denies any wrongdoing and has spent the first four weeks of the season running over its opponents.

The last time the Patriots had a scandal fueling them, they went 16-0 and lost in the 2007 Super Bowl. It’s doubtful they’ll be able to repeat the regular-season success of that season, but this team looks like a strong contender to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

But that’s all down the road. Right now, the Colts are in their targets, and it would be a surprise if the Patriots don’t figure out a way to get back at Indianapolis this week.

Teams love to talk about how they don’t look forward to certain games, and each week is the same. There’s no way that’s actually true for New England. The Pats have had this one circled, and there’s no question Belichick has reminded them a few times about what this one means.

Nick Underhill

NICK’S PICKS: Nick Underhill’s top five teams (this week)

1. Patriots (4-0)

New England continues its hate parade against the team that started it all this week. The Colts should be concerned after seeing the Pats take out their anger on the rest of the league.

2. Packers (5-0)

Aaron Rodgers finally threw some interceptions at Lambeau Field, but Green Bay still figured out a way to win. The only way the Pack doesn’t remain unbeaten is if they overlook San Diego.

3. BRONCOS (5-0)

Peyton Manning’s star is fading. He has more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six) and is sitting on his lowest completion percentage (63.5) since 2001 (62.5). Good thing Denver’s defense is elite.

4. Bengals (5-0)

Speaking of elite, is Andy Dalton really trying to change the conversation? He’s completed 67.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and two picks. Maybe we should take him more seriously.

5. Cardinals (4-1)

The Cardinals bounced back from their loss to the Rams by battering the Lions. It’s too soon to count out the Seahawks, but Arizona appears to be the team to beat in the NFC West.

This week’s games

BENGALS (5-0) at BILLS (3-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Bengals by 3

BRIEFLY: Bengals are one win short of matching best start to season in team history, set in 1975 and 1988. Team’s longest winning streak is seven set in 1970. ... Bengals QB Andy Dalton’s 115.6 passer rating is highest of any Bengals player in team history through five games. ... With starting Bills QB Tyrod Taylor’s status uncertain because of sprained left knee, EJ Manuel has shot to make first start since 23-17 loss at Houston on Sept. 28, 2014.

NICK’S PICK: Bengals 28, Bills 21

Bears (2-3) at Lions (0-5)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Lions by 3

BRIEFLY: Lions have won four straight against Bears after losing nine of 10. ... Chicago won consecutive games on go-ahead scores in final minute of regulation for first time since 1962. ... Bears QB Jay Cutler threw two TDs in final few minutes of last week’s win at Kansas City after trailing 17-3. ... Lions are only winless team for second straight week. ... Detroit QB Matthew Stafford was benched for first time in career after throwing third INT against Cardinals.

NICK’S PICK: Lions 17, Bears 14

Chiefs (1-4) at Vikings (2-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Vikings by 31/2

BRIEFLY: This is only second meeting in Minnesota between Chiefs and Vikings over last 19 seasons. Vikings beat Chiefs 45-20 at Metrodome in 2003, behind 146 yards and three TDs rushing by Onterrio Smith. ... Chiefs have lost star RB Jamaal Charles for season to torn right ACL. He tore left one in 2011. ... Chiefs QB Alex Smith has been sacked 21 times, second-most in NFL behind Russell Wilson (22). ... Travis Kelce has 328 yards receiving for Chiefs, third-best among TEs in league behind Rob Gronkowski and Gary Barnidge.

NICK’S PICK: Vikings 23, Chiefs 20

Redskins (2-3) at JETS (3-1)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Jets by 61/2

BRIEFLY: Redskins have never lost to Jets on road, going 4-0, including 23-20 OT victory in 2007. Washington’s .800 winning percentage (8-2) vs. Jets is team’s best mark against any opponent with minimum of 10 games played. ... Redskins playing second game at MetLife Stadium in four weeks after losing to Giants 32-21 on Sept. 24. ... WR DeSean Jackson could return after sitting out since straining left hamstring in season opener. ... Jets looking for first 4-1 start since 2010 team opened 5-1 and finished 11-5.

NICK’S PICK: Jets 24, Redskins 21

Broncos (5-0) at Browns (2-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Broncos by 4

BRIEFLY: Broncos have won last 10 meetings against Browns, who haven’t beaten Denver since 1990. ... Broncos are 5-0 for seventh time in franchise history. ... Broncos lead NFL in total defense and are first team in 17 years to post at least 14 takeaways and 22 sacks through five games. ... QB Peyton Manning is 6-0 vs. Browns. ... Broncos are one win from joining New England as only original AFL franchises to reach 450 regular-season wins. ... Browns QB Josh McCown passed for franchise record 457 yards last week vs. Ravens.

NICK’S PICK: Broncos 26, Browns 20

Texans (1-4) at JAGUARS (1-4)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Jaguars by 1½

BRIEFLY: Texans have won seven of last nine in series. ... Five of last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or less. ... Houston QB Brian Hoyer makes first start since season opener. ... Jaguars QB Blake Bortles is first QB in franchise history with 10 or more touchdown passes in first five games of season.

NICK’S PICK: Jaguars 24, Texans 20

Dolphins (1-3) at Titans (1-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Titans by 1½

BRIEFLY: Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell makes coaching debut vs. Titans. ... Dolphins have won eight of last 12 vs. Titans. ... Dolphins have yet to score rushing TD this season, one of two NFL teams (Jaguars) without one.

NICK’S PICK: Dolphins 27, Titans 21

Cardinals (4-1) at Steelers (3-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Cardinals by 3½

BRIEFLY: Steelers have won four of last five meetings, including 27-23 win in 2009 Super Bowl. .... Arizona’s plus-100 point differential is greatest through five games since 2007 Patriots. ... Cardinals lead NFL in points (190) and touchdowns (24). ... Arizona QB Carson Palmer’s 13 touchdown passes are tied with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers for NFL lead.

NICK’S PICK: Cardinals 27, Steelers 23

Panthers (4-0) at SEAhawks (2-3)

WHEN: 3:05 p.m. Sunday

Line: Seahawks by 7

BRIEFLY: Including playoffs, this is sixth meeting since 2010 season. ... Seahawks beat Panthers in NFC divisional playoff in January thanks to 17-point fourth quarter that included Kam Chancellor’s 90-yard interception return for touchdown. ... Panthers one of six undefeated teams. ... Panthers have not started 5-0 since 2003 when they finished 11-5 and reached Super Bowl. ... All-Pro LB Luke Kuechly expected to return after missing three games with a concussion. ... Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch expected to play after missing past two games with hamstring injury.

NICK’S PICK: Seahawks 24, Panthers 20

Chargers (2-3) at Packers (5-0)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Packers by 101/2

BRIEFLY: Chargers’ only win in series came Oct. 7, 1984, when Dan Fouts threw for 376 yards and three TDs in 34-28 victory. ... Chargers have lost six straight in series. ... Packers are 5-0 for fourth time since 1945. ... Packers have longest active home winning streak, 12 games. ... QB Aaron Rodgers stands 186 yards passing away from 30,000 for career.

NICK’S PICK: Packers 31, Chargers 27

RAVENS (1-4) at 49ERS (1-4)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Ravens by 2

BRIEFLY: Last-place Ravens 1-4 for first time. ... 49ers, also last in division, on four-game skid for worst start since 2010. ... Baltimore has won four straight vs. San Francisco, including Super Bowl.... Ravens have lost second-half leads in each defeat.

NICK’S PICK: Ravens 28, 49ers 21

Patriots (4-0) at Colts (3-2)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Line: Patriots by 9

BRIEFLY: With Bills QB Tyrod Taylor’s status uncertain (sprained left knee), EJ Manuel has shot to make first start since 23-17 loss at Houston on Sept. 28, 2014 ... Patriots (11) and Colts (9) have won most division titles since realignment in 2002. ... New England has won six straight in rivalry, including last two playoff games, hasn’t started 5-0 since 2007, when Pats went 18-0 before losing Super Bowl.

NICK’S PICK: Patriots 38, Colts 24

GIANTS (3-2) at EAGLES (2-3)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Line: Eagles by 5

BRIEFLY: Eagles have won 11 of last 14 meetings. ... Giants QB Eli Manning will make his 173rd consecutive start, longest active streak in NFL. He had club-record 41 completions last week. ... ... WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) had 12 catches for 185 yards and one TD vs Eagles last December. ... WR Rueben Randle (LSU)had six catches for 158 yards in that game.

NICK’S PICK: Giants 31, Eagles 28


Nick’s picks last week: 8-4

For the season: 43-27