Super Bowl 44. WHO YA GOT?
In a game that proves that the NFL is no longer a run the ball 35 times and play defense league, the team of history takes on the team of destiny. Both teams feature great, Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks, an average at best running game, and an undersized but yet opportunistic defense. Who has the edge? According to Vegas the Colts are a one touchdown favorite and I'm going to tell you why.
Quarterbacks: Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning. Brees is a great quarterback who has been selected to four Pro Bowls (including this year), named Offensive Player of the Year last year, and set the NFL record for completion percentage this year. Brees is good but he is no Manning. Manning is starting be considered the greatest quarterback, EVER (sorry John Elway fans, but he is). Did I mention he's only 33? Manning has proved this year, especially last week, that it does not matter who he is passing to, he is going to get his, no questions asked. Manning turned relatively unknown Pierre Garcon and 4th round pick Austin Collie into AFC Championship game heroes after his top two weapons (Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark) were taken out of the game. Manning should have all of his weapons at his disposal this week against a soft New Orleans pass defense and he WILL take advantage.
Running Backs: Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush vs. Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. Does someone have to have an edge in this category? Both teams are undoubtedly pass first and only run the ball when forced to in order to "keep the defense honest." The Colts were dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game while the Saints averaged a respectable 131 per contest. I don't see either teams rushing game being a major factor in the game but the stats don't lie.
Wide Receivers: Marques Colston and gang vs. Reggie Wayne and gang. Both teams feature a star wide receiver and "everyone else." In direct comparison Wayne is better than Colston (100 rec, 1264 yards, 10 TDs vs 70 rec, 1074 yards, 9 TDs). Garcon and Collie showed why they are better than Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem with their performances last week. Bush is the kicker: he is a very athletic. . .quite frankly, I don't know what position to call him. The point is he is very athletic and is usually good for one play that leaves everyone asking themselves, "How the hell did he get away from that?" Although Bush is a game-breaker, this category is considered wide receivers and I am not convinced he is one.
Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey vs. Dallas Clark. If this was a "Who is more outspoken?" or "Who has better tattoos?" or even "Who is more likely to say something that will get posted in the other team's locker room?" contest, then Shockey would win. Unfortunately for Shockey I am evaluating talent; something that Shockey has not had since his days at The U. Clark is one of the premier tight ends in the NFL and should play a large factor in the game.
Offensive Line: (I could throw some names out there but let’s face it; it is the Saints' front 5 vs the Colts' front 5). The Colts led the league, giving up only 13 sacks in the regular season while the Saints also fared well giving up only 20. As stated earlier, the Saints averaged 50 more rushing yards a game than the Colts during the regular season, and in a close game, this could be the difference. Both teams will, without a shadow of a doubt, keep their MVP upright but in a matchup of the big uglies up front it comes down to asserting their will in the run game.
Defensive Line: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are arguably the best defensive end pairing in the NFL and if Sean Payton and the New Orleans staff do not gameplan for them they are likely to take over the game. New Orleans can't stop the run and are forced to develop exotic blitz packages to get to the opposing quarterback because of their inept defensive line. NFL games, especially big ones, are usually decided in the trenches and the New York Giants showed how important a good pass rush in '08 when they took down the invincible Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Linebackers: Jonathan Vilma and Co. vs. Gary Brackett and Co. Both units are relatively underrated as they provide their defenses with big plays in the form of interceptions and fumbles. Vilma led the Saints defense with 110 tackles and earned his 2nd career Pro Bowl selection (although he can't play in it because the NFL thought it was a good idea to move it to the week BEFORE the Super Bowl).
Defensive Backs: Darren Sharper and scrubs vs. Scrubs. Sharper's career has been rejuvenated in the Big Easy. He led the league in interceptions with 9 and also returned 3 of those for touchdowns. Sharper makes plays while the Colts' secondary prays Freeney and Mathis can get there in three seconds.
Special Teams: Bush is good for at least one big play a game, usually on special teams while the Colts' returners (Chad Simpson and T.J. Rushing) can be named by only avid Indy fans. The Colts' kicker, Matt Stover, is 42 years old, and come Super Bowl Sunday, will be the oldest player in the history of the Super Bowl. While Garrett Hartley, the Saints' kicker, showed his clutch rating with a 40 yard field goal to send the Saints to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Intangibles: The Colts have been here before and Manning knows how to win the big game, while the Saints are the team that is just happy to have made it this far. Even with a rookie coach in Jim Caldwell, everyone knows this is Manning's team and the experience gained from the Colts' previous Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears will reign supreme.
Some Interesting Storylines: A victory for the Colts will give Manning his second Super Bowl victory and place him in an elite class of only ten other quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl victories. Caldwell is the fifth rookie head coach in NFL history to make it to the Super Bowl and would be the third to win it. A victory for the Saints would hopefully result in the National Guard being deployed to Bourbon Street before it gets burned to the ground. It is hard to believe that just five short years ago Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed the city and since then the Saints have brought the city together while it is still recovering. If the Saints could pull off the victory Mardi Gras could be starting a month early. Finally, Kim Kardashian, Bush's girlfriend, said that if the Saints won the Super Bowl, they would be getting married. Bush said she was "just kidding" and that they in fact will not be getting married but only time will tell.
Prediction: Colts 31, Saints 23
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