Peyton Manning seems to be riding the train towards another Super Bowl ring, but he's no longer playing chicken with a Bears team whose offense is menial at best. No, this time, Drew Brees is steering the long, black and gold train towards victory.
In a game that typically pits an offensive firepower against a shutdown defense, Super Bowl XLIV will be nothing short of a prolific shootout showcasing two of the best quarterbacks in the league.
The New Orleans' wheelman comes in with a slightly less-groomed background. After a bland stint in San Diego, Brees came into the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina had all but wiped the city clean of its memories. Since then, he's resurrected the city's faith in their football, never finishing a season with under 4,300 yards.
Now the two will face each other on the biggest stage in football. Nearly every player on the New Orleans roster will be going under the big lights for the first time, while big games are only becoming rhetoric for Manning and his defense.
Both quarterbacks have a supporting cast that would make Dan Marino jealous. Brees has a young and vibrant receiving corps full of speed and the ability to make the big catch. The pressure isn't entirely on him, either, with the three-headed rushing attack the Saints employ.
Manning has had a more arduous task this season with the loss of veteran Marvin Harrison. Rookies Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon have filled the gap with stellar performances in their first year. Manning also carries much of the offensive weight with Joseph Addai being the only legitimate back and still receives only minimal carries.
Both teams sport a dome when they're in their own neighborhood, but SunLife Stadium is an outdoor field, so noise won't be an advantage for either team.
Manning runs his offense like a coach at the line, spitting out audibles and hot routes, and noise is typically an important variable to keeping order when the play starts.
Brees isn't known for his play-calling prowess, but recognizing the defense and adapting to it will, as always, plays an important role in moving the chains.
I expect both teams to utilize every offensive weapon and spread the ball around the field. In the matchup between quarterbacks, I give Manning the edge. His experience in playing in big games and his maturity at the position is an advantage of its own.
Although his experience isn't as extensive as Manning, Brees has a more diverse array of weapons, including a speedy running back who is a matchup nightmare. He has a better run support and a better offensive line.
Still, the skill of Manning as a commander at the line is what will propel his team to a victory. No one can read a defense like No. 18 can, and this big of a stage is nothing new. I expect a classic late fourth-quarter drive to, once again, prove Manning's superiority.
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