New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts
Both the Saints and Colts can claim they are almost mirror images of one another in a way. Both teams feature explosive offenses led by the upper echelon quarterbacks in the game today.
In the Super Bowl, it usually comes down to who controls the trenches, but this may change this year since neither seems to rely on that area to win.
What To Watch From The Saints
The Saints have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Drew Brees to lean on, even if he was not at his best in the NFC Championship win. New Orleans needs the running game to continue to be effective.
Pierre Thomas was effective last week, but they will need an even better effort from him and Reggie Bush. If they have difficulty running against a porous Colts run defense that has suddenly tightened in the playoffs, then the Colts offense will get more chances to score.
New Orleans in hurting along their defensive line, but they were still able to put pressure on Minnesota when they needed to last week. They battered the Vikings quarterback, Brett Favre, into multiple mistakes and bruises. Manning gets rid of the ball much faster with a lot fewer mistakes, so trying to pressure him will be a huge challenge.
The placekicking game is very questionable for the Saints, despite Garrett Hartley hitting a game-winner two weeks ago. The Colts have the more experienced Matt Stover, though Hartley has the bigger leg. If the Saints need their young kicker to procure another win, it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.
The one thing to watch is how the Colts secondary matches up against tight end Jeremy Shockey. Shockey has a sore knee right now, and was ineffective in the NFC Championship win.
Indianapolis loves to throw to their Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark, so the Saints need Shockey to be ready to go on Sunday. He can take the linebackers away from helping the secondary by concentrating on him if he is effective. It may be the key x-factor to a Saints hopes for victory.
Though the Saints have two cornerbacks playing well in Jabari Greer and Tracey Porter, there is a question if the extra defensive backs will be able to shut down the extra receivers the Colts employ. Manning easily checks off to receivers and is notorious in spreading the wealth amongst his teammates.
The onus will be on veteran Randall Gay and rookie Malcolm Jenkins to step up, and Usama Young may factor in as well. If Manning picks these guys apart, the Saints are in trouble because they would prefer Pro Bowl free safety Darren Sharper to keep an eye on Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
What To Watch From The Colts
The Colts have been stopping other teams from running in the playoffs, which is a surprise considering they were one of the worst in the NFL at doing so all season. Now that Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney seems to be playing on one good leg, the task of stopping the versatile New Orleans running backs becomes more problematic. If the Saints run well, they can control the clock and tempo of the game.
Indianapolis has dealt with injuries to their defensive all season with positive results. Starting rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers has a bad ankle, so the Colts may start rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey. Lacey is second on the team with three interceptions, but the Colts are missing safety Bob Sanders, and their starting safeties are battling injuries. They could be in trouble against a Saints offense that can run out four wide receivers to go with their excellent pass catching backs. With Freeney's impact now in question, Brees may have loads of time to pick apart a seemingly weakened secondary.
The Colts do not run the football well, and this has been a hindrance of the team most of the season. Teams who do not run nor stop the run well usually are not championship caliber, but the Colts have been defying the odds and history itself. Indianapolis has a good offensive line in pass protection, but the lack of push in the run game could cost them finally. Having a starting guard and his two main reserves as former centers, they are not a big unit. The Saints need to absolutely dominate in the trenches if they want a good chance at winning.
Future Hall Of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is on the cusp of having his name almost mentioned in the same breath as Johnny Unitas in Colts lore. If Manning adds another championship ring to his collection, he will be that much closer to maybe the best quarterback in NFL history.
Now that former Colts coach Tony Dungy has put up bulletin board material for the Saints by saying he expects Indianapolis to win handily, the perfectionist in Manning will try to make that prediction come true. Never one to back down from a challenge, the fiery quarterback realizes he needs this second championship ring to justify his place amongst the NFL elite.
Quarterback : Slight Edge Colts
Running Back : Slight Edge Saints
Receivers : Slight Edge Colts
Offensive Line : Slight Edge Saints
Defensive Line : Slight Edge Saints
Linebacker : Even
Secondary : Even
Special Teams : Slight Edge Saints
Coaching : Slight Edge Saints
Both teams are trying to make history with a win in this game. If the Saints win, they will be the first team ever to win a championship after finishing the regular season with three straight losses. The Colts are trying to become the first team since 1967 to win it all after finishing their regular season schedule with two straight losses.
This could be a high scoring affair, because both teams have multiple weapons on offense and questionable secondaries. It could go down to who has the ball last.
This pick is being made mostly on the hopes the Saints finally get a championship trophy, something the city has not seen ever. The Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association reached the ABA Finals in 1968, but lost in seven games.
Saints 37 Colts 31