We’ve finally come to the matchup that the analysts have been begging for since before the championship games even began.
The Saints and the Colts will meet for the biggest prize in professional football: The Vince Lombardi Trophy. Who will be planning for a parade in their home city, and who will go back home, so close to glory? Swami McMullen whips out his crystal ball one more time to see who will come home from Miami as Super Bowl champions.
Why The Saints Will Win
Rush, Rush, Rush
When you match up the two rushing attacks, the Saints clearly are superior. Running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas have split the load pretty evenly, which makes them a double threat in the backfield.
They’ve also been potent in the receiving game (110 yards receiving combined in the postseason), which makes them even more threatening. The Colts' secondary will have to be on top of their game if they want to shut them down. It doesn’t help that cornerback Bob Sanders is out, but the substitutes have steeped up nicely. This matchup should be quite even.
This game pits two of the best quarterbacks in the league this year: Drew Brees versus NFL MVP Peyton Manning. Brees has been very good this offseason, throwing no interceptions and being very efficient throwing the ball (116.1 quarterback rating), while Manning has been slightly less efficient this postseason (five touchdowns, one interception, and a 104.6 quarterback rating).
It will all come down to who can stay the coolest under the fire of two very stifling defenses. Seeing how the Colts had such a tough time with the Jets’ blitzing in the championship game, I give the edge to Brees.
Grace Under Fire
To quote famous WWE wrestler John “Bradshaw” Layfield, “[The Saints] smell like smoke ’cause they’ve been through fire.” No truer statement can be made about this team.
They’ve had to deal with losing their home field in Hurricane Katrina. They’ve been through losing season after losing season, and finally, they had to sweat their way through one of the best NFC Championship Games ever.
They’ll go into the game hoping to not just throw the monkey off their backs, but throw him completely out of the stadium. With the team they’ve assembled, it’s not a stretch to think that.
Why the Colts Will Win
The Prowess of Peyton
All-everything quarterback Peyton Manning is, without a doubt, one of the best in the league. He knows how to pick apart defenses, and he showed that with his decimation of the Jets’ league-leading offense.
He has shown he can win in the big games as well, winning Super Bowl XLI against another dominating defense in the Chicago Bears. If Manning keeps his league-renowned cool against another defense that seems to be pretty dominating, he’ll walk away from Miami with another Super Bowl victory.
Even with the loss of All-Pro wide receiver Marvin Harrison, the Colts’ receiving corps hasn’t lost a beat. The receiving trio of Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, and Reggie Wayne stepped up in a big way when Anthony Gonzalez (knee injury) went down for the season.
They are a three-pronged threat that must be taken very seriously. The Jets did not pay attention to that, instead focusing on a blitz-heavy package, and got burned in the process. The Saints’ secondary, which looks to be one of the best in the league, will have to make special plans to defend these guys.
The Injury Bug Bites
As the Colts prepared for the Super Bowl, they came with a laundry list of injuries. This is normal come Super Bowl time, but they have some big injuries that might not get better by Sunday.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney (ankle) is looking less and less likely to start, and they have suffered considerable injuries for most of the season. The bench needs to come up big like they have all season for the Colts. Unfortunately, Freeney is a big cog in the Indianapolis machine, and I don’t think backup Raheem Brock can make the same impact that Freeney does.
All the onus will be on him to step up big if Freeney can’t play, if the Colts want another Lombardi Trophy.
Saints 38, Colts 35 in the first overtime period in Super Bowl history.
This is the ultimate showdown of unstoppable force (the Saints' offense) meeting immovable object (the Colts' defense). It will be a high scoring game, however, with Saints kicker Garrett Hartley showing the same heroics he did in New Orleans in the Championship Game.
So there you have it: the Saints start Mardi Gras a little early and bring their first Super Bowl trophy home from Miami. Will the clock strike 12 for the Cinderella Saints? Will the Colts bring rookie coach Jim Caldwell to glory? You’ll just have to watch to find out!