Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
New Orleans vs. Indianapolis (-5½)
With the AFC taking the win in the ultimate, albeit meaningless, test of league superiority, the Pro Bowl, it now falls on the favored Colts to confirm the notion that the AFC is superior, while the Saints will try to debunk that claim.
Much of the burden of each team's fortunes rests on the play of their superstar quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Manning and the Colts return to the site of their Super Bowl XLI conquest, Miami, while Brees and the Saints seek the franchise's first Super Bowl win.
"How about the Pro Bowl?" says Manning. "It's just like the Super Bowl halftime show —nobody watches. Correction. There are people 'watching'...they're called Pro Bowl defenders. I've seen more compelling Lingerie Bowls, and in doing so, have experienced way more hand checks.
"Anyway, it's great to return to Miami. Miami may not play in the Super Bowl anymore, but they sure know how to play host to one. Sure, the name of the stadium is likely to change by game time, but otherwise, the city has everything in place. And so do we. We've been here and won the title before, so our confidence is high. Suffice it to say there is a pun intended when I say 'I repeat , confidence is high.'
"Not since Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs patrolled the streets has anyone owned Miami like us. Everyone saw what I did to the Jets' No. 1-ranked pass defense in the AFC championship; what's stopping me from doing the same, or worse, to the Saints' 26th-rated unit?
"I'm aware of Drew Brees' philanthropic ways, but the New Orleans defense is also a charitable bunch. What's that logo on their helmet called? A fleur de lenient ? I thought so. If Crockett and Tubbs happened upon the aftermath of my day against the Saints defense, they would undoubtedly call it 'Miami Vis-cera.'
"Yes, I've heard that New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams plans to make sure his pass rushers drop me with some 'remember-me' shots, even when they don't get the sack. That's all very well and dandy, but I've got my own intentions, and that's to get rid of the ball quickly and avoid those cheap shots. I call those my 'forget you' passes. 'FU' for short.
"The key is being decisive. No one's ever characterized Brett Favre as such. That's why he played most of the NFC Championship Game from his back, but you've got to admire his courage and toughness. That man can take a hit, but that's to be expected from someone so hardheaded.
"Unlike Favre, though, I'll have my 'mind made up' well before the Saints rush nears me. Of that I'm positive. Favre may have cameo-ed in There's Something About Mary . I'll have the lead role in There's Something About Sure-ly .
"I don't fear hits by the Saints' defense, mostly because there won't be any. I'll be strong in the pocket. Edward J. Olmos may be most well-known as Lieutenant Martin Castillo from Miami Vice , but his greatest role may have been as math teacher Jaime Escalante. And like Escalante, I plan to Stand and Deliver .
"As for my receivers, I'm hoping they won't play 'catch and release' with the football, as I'm sure those pesky Saints defensive backs will be trying their best to cause fumbles. Defense carried us in our Super Bowl XLI win. My performance was rather pedestrian. It will be different this time. As one would expect of the league MVP, I'll carry the load. I'll rise to the occasion. It will be a case of 'RS MVP.'"
The Saints earned their way to Miami with a lopsided 45-14 win over the Cardinals and a thrilling 31-28 overtime conquest of the Vikings in the NFC title game, a game marked by five Minnesota turnovers. As much as When the Saints Go Marching In has become New Orleans' unofficial battle cry, their morale also saw a boost from a few listens to the Vikings' unofficial tune.
"I believe that song was Give it Away by the Red Hot Chili Peppers," says Drew Brees. "There were so many balls hitting the playing surface, I was almost certain a Timberwolves game had broken out. Of course, it's highly doubtful the T-Wolves could score 28 points.
"Sure, the Vikes may have been the more deserving team, but I won't apologize for being here. We can't expect the Colts to turn the ball over that often, or at all. Brett Favre has made a name for himself as a gunslinging risk-taker, but that pass to Sidney Rice, AKA 'Chris Rock With Cornrows," was ill-advised, and surely drove Brad Childress 'Bra-zerk.
"As they say, 'you live by the sword, you die by the sword.' And the swashbuckling Favre is the king of swordplay. I'm sure Sean Payton wouldn't have tolerated such a play from me. If I had thrown the interception that cost us the NFC title, it would have been a case of 'shooting the Brees.'
"As for the Super Bowl, I realize a Colts victory will cement Manning's legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. But I've got my own legacy to think about, one which heretofore has been characterized merely by numerous NFL Man of the Year awards and the best pre-game woofing a white man has to offer.
"I know the Manning pedigree will be a powerful force, what with Peyton's father and brother there to lend support. But Archie and Jughead's presence is irrelevant towards the outcome of the game. I know Peyton's not the type of guy to be satisfied with one Super Bowl ring, but I've a good feeling this is his year to finish second, a Peyton 'place' if you will.
"I don't think anyone is expecting a defensive struggle, and Dwight Freeney's injury would seem to support that feeling. Aside from Rex Ryan's middle finger and Joey Porter's mouth, Freeney's ankle is the most talked about body part in Miami. And Porter's is likely to do more 'running' than Freeney's. If Freeney plays, I don't foresee us needing double-teams to stop him. Usually, it takes only one offensive lineman to apply a chop block."
What's the secret to defending a quarterback like Manning who's as prepared and as smart as they come? Why, playing dumb, of course. If the Saints' defenders can make Manning think he knows what's coming, then they may find success stopping him. However, it's doubtful Manning will be outsmarted.
He's much too studious, and dedicated tape study will pay dividends. Rumor has it that not only has Manning viewed countless hours of Saints' game tape, but he's even watched tape of the Saints watching tape . Archie's loyalty to the Saints organization only goes so far.
For the Saints, Brees, like Manning, will need to be one step ahead of the opposing defense. The New Orleans' defense may be able to confuse Manning temporarily, but there's no way they'll be able to sustain it. Likewise, Brees will have to be patient, and take what the Colts' defense gives until he's able to solve whatever riddle they may present. Conservatism may be the order early for both teams, but a trick play by the Saints will open the door to an offensive shootout.
After the Colts take a 20-17 lead, powered by two Manning scoring tosses, into the locker rooms, The Who takes the stage at midfield, flanked by hundreds of adoring fans for hire, most of whom are eager to hear the theme to their favorite Crime Scene Investigation show. Not surprisingly, The Who's set is delayed momentarily when confusion between the 64-year-old show producer and 28-year-old director leads to a modern-day, Abbott and Costello 'Who's on first?' misunderstanding.
When order is restored, The Who fittingly launch into My Generation , and, as Pete Townshend windmills wildly while dreaming of forbidden Internet images, the British rock gods segue seamlessly into their NFL-themed version, No Penetration , a commentary on the Jacksonville Jaguars' anemic pass rush.
Then, Buffalo's questionable hiring of Chan Gailey is lampooned with a stirring rendition of Who Are You? The medley continues with an imagined plea from Jay Cutler to his head coach to harness Cutler's enormous potential in a song called Lovie, Reign O'er Me .
Next, the band tears into their 1971 tune, Going Mobile , which on this day tells the tale of a depressed Vince Young dealing with a near nervous breakdown. Baseball great Pete Rose then hits the stage, handling backup vocals on You Bettor, You Bet. The guest appearances continue, as the enigmatic Chad Ochocinco joins Roger Daltrey to belt out the timeless I Can't Explain. Then momma's boy Donovan McNabb hits the stage for a version of classic Mommy.
As their set draws to a close, The Who address the pain of the Minnesota Vikings' epic failure in the NFC championship with Behind Blew Eyes.
Finally, Lady Gaga, dressed as a space-age leprechaun, joins the four Brits on stage, much to their surprise, for a stirring rendition of a Who favorite, GaGa O'Riley. As the song ends, Townshend rips off GaGa's top, and shockingly, GaGa's tata's are covered with duct tape, which is adorned with the words "You can't FCC these."
The second half begins, as usual, with a kickoff, and the Colts take possession. They quickly move down the field, and with the Saints keying on Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garçon on the outside, Manning finds his favorite Mormon, Austin Collie, the "Slot Machine,' for a 15-yard score. The Colts never look back, and seal the game with an eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter that culminates in a Matt Stover field goal.
Finally, it's time for the Super Bowl predictions . Indianapolis wins, 41-31. Manning is named Super Bowl MVP, and shocks everyone by denouncing Disneyworld, and instead announces plans to go to Hollywood and star in visionary director Rob Zombie's first foray into football-themed horror, the visually stunning and gory "Dismember the Titans."