Super Bowl XLIV: Who Holds the Edge?
Super Bowl XILV, which is now only a few days away, will feature one of the most intriguing match-ups this decade in the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.
Both teams were undefeated heading in to Week 15, but unfortunately, the Saints lost to the Dallas Cowboys, and one week later, the Colts lost to the New York Jets.
Although both teams finished with losses, they both held homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Saints first demolished Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals. Then, they faced Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints made Favre uncomfortable, and he threw a bad pass in the waning minutes to give the Saints the ball for good.
The Colts started off their journey to the Super Bowl by facing a tough Baltimore defense, but they had no trouble throwing the ball around. Then, they faced the surprise of the AFC in the New York Jets, but the Colts were not going to lose to the Jets this time.
Two of the best offenses this season in the NFL are prepared to face off on Sunday. Who has the edge? This slideshow will break down the match-ups and tell the fans who holds the edge in each category.
Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is just that good. He carried the team with 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns this regular season.
Manning was also only sacked 17 times all season. This was due to not only his offensive line, but also his ability to read the defense and get rid of the ball quickly.
Manning is truly one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. No matter what team or defense he faces, he puts up the numbers.
Yes, he gives up some interceptions, but when you don't have a running game, you will give up some interceptions.
Manning also has the experience. He went to the Super Bowl three years ago, beat the Chicago Bears, and was named Super Bowl MVP.
And don't forget that Manning has now won four AP NFL MVP awards, including this year.
Manning has the edge on Super Bowl Sunday.
Running Backs: New Orleans
Contrary to the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints have a balanced rushing attack to help out Drew Brees. They were sixth in rushing yards this season, averaging 131.6 yards per game. They also helped the Saints become the highest-scoring team this season.
With Reggie Bush, Mike Bell, and Pierre Thomas, the running backs for the Saints are tough. Bush brings the flash and moves to the rushing game, while Thomas and Bell bring force.
None of the running backs reached 1,000 yards for the season, but that is why they are so tough. Each one of them can carry the ball and gain yards and touchdowns. They are a force to be reckoned with.
Wide Receivers: Indianapolis Colts
Yes, this could have arguably gone either way. Both offenses were high-scoring and high-passing. But when one team relies mostly on the pass, they are going to get the edge.
The Indianapolis Colts have Reggie Wayne, who has stepped up to be an elite receiver with over 1,200 yards this season. They also have another 1,000 yard receiver in Dallas Clark.
Beyond those two, Manning shares the ball with the team and likes to spread it around. Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie both had over 600 yards this season, and the wide receivers for the Colts had 31 touchdowns this season.
Compare that to the Saints, who had 27, with running backs catching another seven.
The Colts were also second in the league in passing yards, mostly because they had no running game and because of Manning. They also have some solid wide receivers with sure hands.
Offensive Line: Indianapolis Colts
Both offensive lines are good; otherwise their quarterbacks would not have the numbers they have.
Manning has only been sacked 17 times all season, including playoffs. On the other side, Brees has been sacked 21 times.
This is another match-up that could have gone either way, but the edge goes to Indianapolis. They have the experience needed to continue to give Manning the time needed to pass.
The Colts have faced some tough defenses this season with Jacksonville twice, Arizona, New England, Baltimore twice, and Denver. While the Saints have faced a few tough teams, they also faced a lot of weak teams in Detroit, Carolina twice, Tampa Bay twice, and Washington.
Both teams have proven their offensive line talents, but the Colts will continue to keep Manning clean. His jersey has gotten dirty maybe twice all season. This will help in the Super Bowl.
Defensive Line: New Orleans Saints
The edge goes to the New Orleans Saints for defensive line if Dwight Freeney does not play. At this point, he has not practiced and is questionable for the game. I'm under the assumption he will not play.
This leaves the Saints defensive line led by Will Smith, with 49 tackles. The defensive line had a total of 28.5 sacks out of 36, and they know how to disrupt the flow of the game.
The Saints were 21st against the rush, but that was better than the Colts at 24. They also gave up just over 122 yards per game, compared to 126.5 for the Colts.
The key to the Super Bowl will be if the Saints can get to Manning. They do not need sacks, but they do need to make their presence known. They will not have to worry too much about a rushing game from the Colts.
Both teams have linebackers that can disrupt play. Neither really holds the advantage in the match-up.
The Saints are led by leading tackler Jonathon Vilma. He has 110 tackles this regular season, two sacks, three interceptions, and eight passes defensed.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts are led by leading tackler Clint Session. He has 102 tackles this regular season, 0.5 sacks, two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and five passes defensed.
Both linebacking crews can keep the opposing offenses in line and make an impact.
Secondary: Indianapolis Colts
The New Orleans Saints could out-score anyone, and this has helped them to the Super Bowl. The Colts, on the other hand, had the ability to stop people from scoring.
The Colts were 14th against the pass, according to yards given up. They also had 19 interceptions, with two run back for touchdowns.
Some Saints fans are probably getting ready to argue right now. Yes, the Saints had 29 interceptions, with five run back for touchdowns; however, they also gave up over 235 yards per game and 21 points as a defense.
The Colts relied more on their passing defense. They are led by safeties Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt. Stopping Drew Brees will be a key to the Colts' game plan in the Super Bowl, and the secondary will play a huge role.
Special Teams: New Orleans Saints
Reggie Bush has been a bit of an X-factor for the Saints this season. While both teams have a good kicking game, the Saints hold the edge because of Bush.
Both kickers have over an 80 percent accuracy with field goals. Carney and Hartley have hit a combined 24-of-30 field goals. Do not forget about Hartley kicking the game-winning field goal in the NFC Championship game against the Vikings.
As a return team, the Saints have 37 punt returns this season, with one touchdown. In the playoffs, they have four punt returns for an average of over 27 yards per return.
On kickoff returns, the Saints have 65 returns with one touchdown. In the playoffs, they have eight kick returns with an average of over 27 yards per return.
They need a big game from their returners to create an edge in the Super Bowl.
Coaches: Sean Payton
Sean Payton gets the edge only because he has been a head coach longer, having coached the Saints since 2006.
Before that, he was the Dallas assistant and quarterbacks coach from 2003-05. He also coached for the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
Jim Caldwell has only coached the Colts for this season but has been on the staff since 2002. He coached Manning in Super Bowl XLI, but assistant coaching is different than head coaching.
Payton is more familiar with his team and his quarterback. While he has not experienced the Super Bowl, he faced both a blowout victory this postseason as well as an overtime victory. He knows how to coach in a tight postseason game.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints Win
This may be wishful thinking, but this is the year of Cinderella.
Last year, the Arizona Cardinals came out of nowhere to make the Super Bowl and then lost to the more experienced Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the Indianapolis Colts have more experience, the Saints are not going to fall apart like the Cardinals did. The Colts do not have the defense that the Cardinals faced last year.
The Saints can outscore anyone. It will be a matter of whether they can stop the points. Without Freeney, Drew Brees will have more time on offense to score points.
The Saints will also get a big return from Reggie Bush. He already had an impact on the Vikings game and will get another nice return in the Super Bowl. Big players make big plays in big games.
While the Colts have not given up many sacks, the Saints defensive line will give it all they have. They will not get any sacks, but will get Manning out of the pocket and get enough pressure on him to mess up his game. Without the running game, the Colts will rely solely on Manning.
The Saints will need a big defensive stop towards the end of the game to have a chance against the Colts. They will also need to control the clock as the Colts can score quickly.
As long as the Saints continue their momentum from the Vikings and Cardinals games, the Saints will be okay in the Super Bowl.
This is finally the year that the feel-good team will win. The Saints will win by a field goal, 30-27.