The last time the Patriots and Colts played, no one much cared about the battle of good versus evil. There was, after all, a spot in the Super Bowl at stake.
No such reward looms Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. But if you don't have money on the game and don't have either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in your fantasy league, you can always root for the saintly Tony Dungy against the less-than-saintly Bill Belichick.
Then again, maybe that whole morality thing is highly overrated. This is football, after all, not croquet.
There are reasons to root for the Patriots. Including a few you might not have thought of:
-America loves a bully, and these guys are the biggest bullies since Mike Tyson. They run up the score, run over opponents, and pretty much treat everybody like Barry Bonds treats clubhouse attendants. Surprising that they just don't steal the football and go home.
-The very real possibility that Randy Moss still has issues. Imagine what might happen if Brady overlooks Moss wide open in the end zone for the go-ahead score with a minute left.
-Proof that there really is better living through modern chemistry. Sure, Rodney Harrison had to sit four games for using performance-enhancing drugs, though, of course, it was all really a big misunderstanding. Then again, if he can slow down the passing game of the Colts, who in New England really cares what he's taking?
-Everyone likes a winner, and Boston fans are no exception. Does it get any better than having your baseball team win a World Series and then see your football team all but clinch a spot in the Super Bowl? Actually, it could if Boston College ends up in a BCS game, and the Celtics play as well as they're supposed to with Kevin Garnett.
-Less Peyton Manning in your living room. Hard to imagine an athlete playing in Indianapolis being overexposed, but Manning has made more commercials than Robin Williams has movies. The whole self-deprecating humor bit is no longer all that funny, and does anyone really believe he and Reggie Bush spend their days playing practical jokes on each other?
-Less chance of the Colts winning two straight Super Bowls. The last thing we want to see is the people of Indianapolis getting all smug and complacent about their team. Now they can go back to raising hogs, or whatever they do all winter.
-The possibility that if the Patriots win it all, Belichick will upgrade his wardrobe from faux Salvation Army to real Wal-Mart, which means his new hoodie just might have sleeves.
Not convinced? OK, then here's a few reasons other than getting 5 1/2 points on an undefeated team playing at home to root for the Colts:
-Their coach might be the ultimate good guy in the game and, even if he isn't, he's still a lot better guy than Mr. Hoodie. Tony Dungy also knows how to win with class, something the other coach has no clue about.
-Beating the Patriots should give Indy the home field advantage up to the Super Bowl. If the Colts get that far, it also means the AFC team will only be a 10-point favorite in the Super Bowl instead of a 16-point favorite over whatever sacrificial lamb the NFC sends to the game.
-The 1972 Miami Dolphins will be able to put some champagne on ice. A few members of the team get together every year and share some bubbly when the last undefeated team finally loses a game, and this might be the last real chance for anyone to beat Belichick's juggernaut of a team. Indy, on the other hand, has a tough game at San Diego the very next week.
-The game means more to the Colts than it does the Patriots, at least on paper. Don't laugh. While New England has no winning teams in its division, Indianapolis, theoretically, is still being chased by Tennessee and Jacksonville.
-A $100 bet on the Colts to straight up will return $300. Another sickened look on Belichick's face like he had when the Colts rallied to win in the AFC Championship game last year would be priceless.
Finally, the best reason to root for the underdog Colts? It's a simple one for this, the NFL's version of the Morality Bowl:
Cheaters shouldn't prosper, and bullies shouldn't be allowed to bully.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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