The Colts hate the Patriots. The Colts fans hate the Patriots, possibly more than any other fanbase in the NFL. The Colts fans also hate...well, pretty much everything to have ever come out of New England. For all I know, clam chowder is illegal in the city of Indianapolis.
But in spite of all this, the Colts and the Patriots are not rivals.
They used to be, that’s for sure; back when Peyton Manning was under center, the annual Indy vs. New England showdown was appointment television and were among the greatest games every played. Brady vs. Manning is likely the best quarterback rivalry we will ever see. I have all the respect in the world for Peyton Manning and what he was able to do while in Indianapolis. But, to me at least, when he departed Indy for Denver, that rivalry died, and to say that the Colts still qualify as rivals to the Patriots is to ignore recent history. To those of us in New England, Colts/Pats rivalry more or less ended when Manning went to Denver, at which point the Broncos became the Patriots’ biggest rival, with a respectful nod to the Baltimore Ravens.
If the Colts and their fans still want to consider the Patriots as their rivals, then they have every right to do so, and they will certainly be justified in feeling the way that they do. But the reality is that in order for there to be a true rivalry between teams, there has to be some parity in the win/loss column. Teams have to hand each other heartbreaking losses fairly regularly. Dislike is certainly a large factor (and in that department, it seems that Indy has things well in hand), and were the Colts still in the AFC East, maybe this would be a different conversation. But if one team beats the other on a regular basis and doesn’t really think about them in between matchups, it’s hard to really consider it a rivalry in the truest sense of the word. And unless I’m forgetting a game somewhere, the Colts haven’t beaten the Patriots since 2009, and every game since then hasn’t even been close. In fact, the last time most Patriots fans gave any real thought to the Colts in any capacity was in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. I guess if you’re still hung up on Deflategate for whatever reason, there might be some lingering animosity there, but New England has won two Super Bowls since then. The Patriots have more or less moved on. The Colts definitely haven’t. And that’s fine - but the hate here flows much, much more heavily in one direction. As far as I’m concerned, disliking a team doesn’t necessarily make them a rival, and right now I consider the Jets, Dolphins, Broncos, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, and even the Jaguars closer to Patriot rivals than Indianapolis. And until the Colts actually give the Patriots a game, I’ll continue to feel that way.
So while the recent Josh McDaniels circus certainly fans the flames for Indy, I doubt it’s going to move the needle much for the Patriots. Maybe the reports are true about Kraft doing what he did specifically to stick it to Indy for what they set in motion in 2014, but that’s all conjecture. What isn’t conjecture are wins and losses. The Patriots haven’t lost to the Colts in almost a decade, and until that changes, it will be tough to take Ballard’s words too seriously.
And for the record, I welcome a renewal of this rivalry with open arms. Rivalries make the sport more fun and regular season wins so much more enjoyable. It has been a few years since the Patriots have had one true nemesis, and it would be nice to enter into a back-and-forth with a team that has their number every once in a while the way the Broncos and Ravens have as of late. But until the Colts enter into that conversation, it will be hard for me to consider them rivals, no matter who goes where or who screws over who.