Sean Payton vs. Jim Caldwell. Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning. Reggie Wayne vs. Marques Colston. Dwight Freeney vs. Darren Sharper. However you look at it, this Super Bowl is filled to the brim with star power.
There are numerous storylines to follow. From the possibility of a third rookie head coach to win a Super Bowl to the Saints' first Super Bowl in franchise history.
From the rising star, Drew Brees, making a name for himself, to Peyton Manning engraving his name in NFL history as the best quarterback ever.
From Dwight Freeney's injured ankle limiting or sidelining him, to Reggie Bush's chance to prove himself in this league.
This should and will be the most-watched Super Bowl ever. But what fun is Super Bowl week without yet another analysis/prediction article? That's where I come in.
I could take the easy way out and just say the Colts will win, going on to explain that Peyton Manning is impossible to beat. I don't want to do that though. I truly believe in the Cinderella story that is the New Orleans Saints.
Not that the Colts aren't extremely motivated to win this game, but what team in the NFL wants this more than the Saints? What city deserves this more than New Orleans?
Don't worry, the actual analysis is on the way. But it's hard not to get caught up in the possibility of a Saints championship victory.
Sean Payton and Drew Brees have led this Saints team to one of the best offensive years a team has ever had. Brees threw for 34 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions this year. Add 4,388 yards to that along with a passer rating of about 110 and you have a superb quarterback.
He knows how to win the big games. He is the only quarterback to completely dominate Bill Belichick's pass defense. (He threw for 5 TDs and 371 yards for a perfect passer rating against the Pats.)
He has a wide array of targets to hit and he utilizes them all. The speedy Colts defense can be extremely confusing to face, but they are very beatable if you get the ball to the receiver quickly. Mark Sanchez wasn't able to win last week, but he had a good deal of success against the Colts, throwing two first half touchdown passes.
Sanchez emphasized in a post-game interview that the Colts defense is very fast and the only way to beat them is to hit your targets quickly. If you see an opening, you can't hesitate to get the ball there. Brees can and will be able to do that on Sunday.
He has been very comfortable in the pocket this year, especially in the postseason. In the last two weeks, Brees has only been sacked twice as his offensive line gave him enough time to throw three touchdown passes in each game.
The Saints need to hold on to the ball as long as possible. They need to make very long, very timely scoring drives that don't allow Peyton to get too many chances. If they need a blueprint for this, they should watch the Monday Night Football matchup between the Colts and Dolphins earlier this season. The 'Fins held on to the ball for 45 minutes that game. They lost, but the Saints offense will get a lot more points on the board during 45 minutes than Miami did.
Peyton is the "x-factor" in this game. He is the "x-factor" in every single game he plays. The Jets tried to hit him early and hit him hard. They sacked him twice in the first quarter, but to no avail. Peyton figured out how to beat the Jets' defense late in the second quarter and that sparked 24 unanswered points from the Colts in a come-from-behind victory.
The Saints' secondary will play a very important role in this game. They need to play very physical with both Austin Collie and Pierre Garçon.
Collie is essentially a bigger Wes Welker. Garçon is a speed demon that can beat a defender and be down-field in the blink of an eye. Darrelle Revis covered both of these receivers in the AFC Championship Game and he played each of them perfectly.
As for Reggie Wayne, he is a great route runner who can make big catches. He isn't a very physical receiver and if you play bump-and-run coverage on him, he is definitely beatable.
The only foreseeable problem for the Saints will be Dallas Clark. Everyone knows that he is going to be making some big plays in this game. It is simply a matter of how many he will make.
As I mentioned in a previous article, there will be a point in the game where Peyton figures out the Saints' defense and starts moving the ball freely against them. At that point in the game, two things matter: How the Saints respond and how many points they are already up.
If the Saints come up with a big turnover at that point in the game, it could very well be the turning point on the way to a Saints victory. If the Saints either haven't obtained enough of a lead or allow Peyton to score multiple touchdowns late in the game, they will not win.
In my opinion, Brees will (in his usual manner) score an early touchdown or two and set the pace for the game. Manning will struggle early, but he is going to pick it up sooner or later. I think it will come down to the wire with the game ending with a last-minute touchdown pass from Brees or Manning.
Super Bowl XLIV Score Prediction: Saints 31, Colts 27