Peyton Manning still plays quarterback. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne still run routes. Dwight Freeney still comes off the edge. Heck, Bob Sanders might be good to go.
When the Patriots meet the Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis, they won't be meeting any old 3-4 team. As far as Bill Belichick is concerned, preparing for this game is the same as preparing for last season's showdown between undefeateds.
"When I look at them, I see a very explosive football team," Belichick said. "Look at the last six minutes of the Houston game. Look at the first quarter of the Baltimore game. You see plenty of good football from them and plenty of explosive football. That’s what worries us, and that’s what we have to prepare for."
Belichick downplayed the Colts' loss to Tennessee on Monday and didn't mention at all the Colts' loss to the Green Bay Packers the week before that. In those two games, Manning threw two touchdown passes (both against the Titans) and four interceptions. He now has thrown nine interceptions on the season -- and just 10 touchdown passes.
But as long as No. 18 is lining up under center for the Colts, no one on the Patriots' side is taking anything for granted.
"They've got a veteran squad, led by Peyton and those receivers," safety James Sanders said. "They've still got a very strong team, and we're going to have our hands full."
Rookie cornerback Terrence Wheatley, who has seen action in five of the Patriots' seven games this season, could see quite a bit of playing time on Sunday night -- especially if Ellis Hobbs (shoulder) is unable to go. Wheatley played some key snaps against Marc Bulger and the Rams last week, but lining up against Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison would be an experience unlike any other.
It helps, he said, that he's had a chance to go up against Tom Brady and Randy Moss in training camp. Order them however you want, but Brady and Manning are the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, and experience against one can only help against the other.
"You can't give them the same look every time," Wheatley said. "You've got to go out there and disguise coverages. You can't line up in the same thing every time. Even if you're running the same coverage you did the last play, you've got to make it look different. ...
"Guys on this level are fast. They're big. They're smart. They know what they're doing. Coming in as a rookie, you've got to be able to show them different things. If you line up in the same thing over and over and over again, like with our offense, if I lined up against Tom and Randy, I can't show them same thing every time. They'll eat me alive. You've got to change it up. In college, you didn't really have to do that. You could just line up, and your physical ability would take over. But at this level, going against a team like the Colts, you can't do that."