by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

That time of year has come when the Patriots must travel to Indianapolis to see where they stand amongst the NFL’s elite.

All the could’ves and should’ves of last year’s loss mean nothing now, as do New England’s previous three wins against opponents with a combined 6-18 record. The Patriots will try to become the first team to beat the Colts this season. All these issues have me shaking like a chilly Chihuahua.

Some other causes for concern…

Manning Up: Here he is, the mother (father?) of all worries for Patriots fans. Peyton Manning, the arm-flapping, finger-pointing pass machine with a head fit for a Thanksgiving parade, poses the biggest challenge to New England yet this year.

This naturally (or, as grad school students say, “organically”) leads to…

Wait One Secondary: After last week’s not-quite-spectacular showing vs. the Dolphins, New England’s defensive backs must tighten up their coverage against the Colts to prevent third down conversions. Neither Leigh Bodden nor Brandon Meriweather had strong games. Against the level of offense they’ll face Sunday, they and their backline brethren need to make plays while avoiding giving up big ones.

Planet Of Sound: Just like the song by the Pixies, Lucas Oil Stadium gets loud quickly. Can the Patriots’ offense deal with crowd noise? It’s worrisome to think of how this will affect rookie Sebastian Vollmer protecting Tom Brady’s blind side.

You can insert your own comment here about Gillette having the same decibel level as a morgue. I’ll just keep this thing moving.

joseph-addaiDo Or Addai: Colt running back Joseph Addai has been spotted leading the Wildcat formation. After Miami’s sporadic bursts of success last week, the Patriots’ defensive line must once again live up to expectations. As sure as the people of Indy love sweater vests, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren will hold down their spots. But with Jarvis Green sitting, backup Mike Wright and rookie Myron Pryor will have to contain any options that come their way.

Sack Race: Can New England pressure the best QB in the league right now? Tully Banta-Cain has been a pleasant surprise; Derrick Burgess, not so pleasant. The Pats must bring pressure from other areas, which could weaken their downfield coverage.

Running Debate: Conversation fodder Laurence Maroney had a workmanlike effort vs. Miami.  While judgments of the back’s worth go on (and on and on), we’ll recuse ourselves if Maroney continues his 4.3-yards-per-carry season average Sunday night.

That’s all. Just 4.3 per carry.

One more thing to worry about.

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