Jerome Bettis, NBC Sports: I look at this football game and it's still a game with a lot of championship quality players in it. These are both championship teams so you're still going to get that type of effort no matter who's at quarterback, running back and receiver and that makes this a special game.
Bruce Allen, Boston Sports Media Watch: These aren't your dad's, or even your older brother's Patriots and Colts. With Tom Brady out for the year, and the Colts uncharacteristically scuffling on offense, this game doesn't have quite the same buzz as say, last year's November meeting between two undefeated teams.
Here in New England, we're hoping this appearance on Sunday Night Football goes a little better than the last Patriots appearance on NBC.
Cris Collinsworth, NBC Sports: It's a tribute to this franchise that they are ready for any contingency. They lose Brady and a quarterback who essentially hasn't played since high school steps in and they keep on winning. And it's not just Brady. They've lost [Laurence] Maroney and [Sammy] Morris as well. Nothing seems to stop them."
Allen: The last two weeks have been encouraging, on both sides of the ball. Matt Cassel is showing signs of improvement each week, and last week was probably the most important improvement, as he showed progress in his ability to simply step up in the pocket, deliver the ball and avoid the sack rather than getting out of the pocket, putting his shoulder down and taking the hit. He's been able to find Randy Moss and Wes Welker regularly, and last week he added Kevin Faulk to his arsenal, getting the back the ball and letting him make a play. This week, probably the most important thing for the Patriots will be the availability of Sammy Morris and Lamont Jordan. We don't know the status of either player, though the hopes for Jordan playing seem higher than Morris. The Patriots are going to need to run to get some pressure off Cassel. With Bob Sanders likely back for the Colts, the challege becomes even greater for the Patriots offense.
Collinsworth: He's gotten better and better each week. Bill Belichick and the Patriots have done a great job of nurturing him. I am real interested to see him this week. It's a step up in competition, against a big-time quarterback in what's sure to be a playoff atmosphere. I think because of that, this game becomes more intriguing without Tom Brady, not less.
Bettis: Can the Patriots stop receivers from having big days? Donnie Avery, a rookie, had a huge game against them. Now you look at the Colts offense can still score points. New England will have to match them with points because the Patriots secondary will have a tough time.
Allen: On defense, the Patriots' secondary was decimated during last week's game. Bill Belichick was spotted frantically scanning the stands for Troy Brown to sign him up and get him in the game at cornerback. Instead, the Patriots played three cornerbacks who are in their first year of playing in the NFL and needed a concussed Deltha O'Neal to come off the bench and grab the game clinching interception to put the Rams away. On the plus side, Richard Seymour and Adalius Thomas were both huge last Sunday, pushing the Rams all over the field and getting to Marc Bulger. They'll need more of the same this week, and with Joseph Addai expected to be back, middle linebackers Tedy Bruschi and rookie Jerod Mayo will need to stay on their toes.
Special teams has been a bright spot for the Patriots and might be where they could get an edge. Ellis Hobbs has been terrific on kick returns, and Stephen Gostkowski is showing why the Patriots were willing to let club legend Adam Vinatieri bolt for the Colts.
Tiki Barber, NBC Sports: We became so used to them winning last year but now they are a normal team. They have to find themselves. They have to fight to win each week. Things aren't just going to fall in their lap like we expected them to last season.
Allen: It's easy to just say "The Colts need this game more, so they'll win," but the Patriots have shown improvement and are building a sense of pride in their game with their play the last few weeks. This could be a good one.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.