NFL's Unbeatens Go Head-to-Head

They will arrive at the RCA Dome for Sunday afternoon's much-anticipated showdown of undefeated clubs with four Super Bowl titles between them in the past six seasons, and with rosters fashioned to perhaps claim even more championships, including one for 2007.

But the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, who essentially have transformed the NFL into a two-team league this season, also will arrive as franchises constructed in very different ways. They also have obviously polar mind-sets as to how the composition of a roster is crafted and molded to achieve maximum results.

The Colts, largely, are homegrown, a testament, it seems, to traditional Midwest values. And the Patriots have succeeded, in part, by allowing other teams to get some of their best players through their NFL gestation periods and beyond, and then plucking them away for their still-productive years.

Bill Polian, the Indianapolis president and general manager, and Scott Pioli, New England's vice president of player personnel, are both brilliant talent evaluators, with terrific scouting staffs and head coaches who know precisely what kind of player profile they covet. But in terms of putting together their respective rosters, the franchises couldn't be more disparate.

The Colts draft players, nurture and groom their youngsters, and then gradually filter them into the lineup when needed. New England also has used the draft to stock its roster nicely, most notably on the offensive and defensive lines, but has utilized free agency much more ambitiously than have the Colts, who rarely sign a veteran with previous NFL experience.

Yet given the respective results, it's hard to quibble with either philosophy, isn't it?

"I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way," Colts coach Tony Dungy said at the annual league meetings in Phoenix this spring. "There really is no formula. Whatever works for you is going to be best for you in the long run. It's just that I have worked in the past for organizations that have believed a little more in the draft, and I've agreed with that philosophy. And it has served us pretty well, I think."

Indeed, no team trusts its drafts, or believes so ardently in its ability to unearth solid young players and develop them into starters and role-playing contributors, as much as Indianapolis does. And that is evident in the makeup of the Colts' current roster.

Of the 53 active players, only nine began their NFL careers with other franchises, and just three of those are among the team's 22 starters, not counting kickers. All three -- Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, guard Ryan Lilja and defensive tackle Raheem Brock -- were either drafted or signed as free agents by other teams, but never played a down in a regular-season game for their original clubs.

In fact, the only players on the Indianapolis roster who ever suited up in the uniform of another team are kicker Adam Vinatieri, who ironically was pirated away from the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2006, and a pair of backups, defensive lineman Dan Klecko (also a former Patriot) and linebacker Rocky Boiman (formerly a Tennessee Titan).

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