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Buildup for Colts begins

FOXBOROUGH - For a team that has rampaged through its first eight games and was coming off a 52-7 victory over the Redskins yesterday, the words seemed a bit misplaced.

Rodney Harrison, your thoughts on the Patriots' next opponent, the Indianapolis Colts?

"They're the best team in football," he said. "They're the world champs, and they're the best until you basically dethrone them."

The buildup for one of the NFL's most anticipated regular-season games in recent history now can begin in earnest.

Next Sunday, it's the 8-0 high-flying Patriots hitting the road to face the 7-0 Colts, the defending champs.

The last time the teams met was in the steaming RCA Dome in the AFC Championship game, in which the Patriots lost a 21-6 halftime lead and dropped one of the most painful games in franchise history, 38-34.

While it didn't take long for Patriots coaches and players to turn the page after their thorough dismantling of the Redskins, players certainly haven't forgotten last year's heartbreaker.

"That film will definitely come up, I can guarantee that," defensive end Ty Warren said. "In that sense, it will be some reflection."

There was a familiar theme in the Patriots' locker room after yesterday's thumping, with players noting the Colts have beaten New England in the last three meetings and have won 12 games in a row, stretching back to last season.

To quarterback Tom Brady, Sunday's trip to Indianapolis will add yet another chapter to a rivalry that has been featuring new twists each year.

"They are always meaningful games when you play them; that is the way it seems the last bunch of times," he said. "We know it's going to take our best effort. We know you can't make a lot of mistakes against those guys.

"When you turn the ball over against the Colts, it's usually 7 points. When you punt it to them, it's usually 7 points. You just have to find ways to be productive and efficient and not turn the ball over, that's always a big key. I'm happy we have seven days to prepare because I think we're going to need each and every hour of that week."

While the Patriots' offense has been lethal through eight games - giving the team's defense some wiggle room - members of the defense seemed to be aware next week could be different.

"Peyton [Manning] is going to test us pretty good," cornerback Asante Samuel said. "We're going to have to go out there with our 'A' game. We haven't stopped them. Last year in the playoffs, we stopped them in the first half and he came out in the second half and did a good job coming back and leading his team to a victory."

Added defensive lineman Richard Seymour, "Obviously when you're facing Peyton Manning and the things they've been able to do - the level of consistency starting from the top - it will be a challenge for us."

While insisting that the Patriots weren't attempting to send a message to the Colts, Harrison acknowledged that he's excited for what lies ahead.

"You play football for competition, the level of intensity, and when you have a chance to play against the best team in football, of course you get excited about it," he said.

Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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