For one week of the year, sports fans that live and die every week with the NFL come together with those that haven’t watched a snap of football since last year. Whether you are watching due to Super Bowl betting, bonding with your significant other, looking for a good party, or actually care about the game, chances are good you will be watching Super Bowl XLIV. For fans of the game like myself, I couldn’t be anymore excited about the possibilities of this year’s matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.
It has taken years to get a matchup this good on paper in the Super Bowl. Not since Super Bowl XXXII can I remember a game promising this much hype, this much intrigue, and this much offense. Like Super Bowl XXXII, the headliners in this game will be the quarterbacks. Can Peyton Manning and Drew Brees live up to the drama provided by Brett Favre and John Elway twelve years ago? Not only do I think they can, but I think this has the potential to be the most exciting Super Bowl of this generation.
The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints combined to score almost 1,000 total points this season. The Saints led the NFL with 64 overall touchdowns during the regular season. The Colts weren’t far behind them, finishing fourth in overall touchdowns with 53. While eight of the Saints touchdowns came from the defense, 51 of the Colts touchdowns came on offense. This one promises to be an offensive show for the ages.
Interestingly enough, this game may be more about defense than offense. This year’s Super Bowl storyline features Colts DE Dwight Freeney. The Pro Bowl DE has ligament damage to his ankle and is officially listed as questionable for the game. Other than Peyton Manning, Freeney may be the second most important player to the Colts in a game like this. Sure, you can confuse Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco with schemes and play the turnover game. However, Drew Brees is not going to turn the ball over without any pressure. Without pressure, Brees will pick the Colts apart for four quarters and slice and dice his way to a championship. Raheem Brock will step in for Freeney if he can’t play and while my fellow Temple alumni is no slouch, he doesn’t possess the speed that Freeney has.
Speaking of defense, the New Orleans Saints come into the game with the 25th ranked defense during the NFL regular season. The Saints have definitely stepped it up in the playoffs. The Saints not only contained arguably the two best quarterbacks in the NFC, they hurt them. Has anyone seen the pictures of Brett Favre’s ankle and arm this week? Forget about looking at the sack number, the Saints got to both Warner and Favre several times throughout the game. It got so bad two weeks ago that even I was wincing in pain watching Brett Favre get up from those massive hits. This is the kind of game that could get ugly real fast for Peyton Manning if he isn’t careful.
The advantage for Manning in my opinion is that he played against two very similar defenses in the playoffs. Manning played arguably the two best defenses in the AFC in back-to-back weeks and shredded them. While the Jets did get to Manning early in the AFC championship game, Manning figured them out, and tore them apart as the game progressed. Manning also seemed to be two steps ahead of the Ravens in the divisional round, who are also a blitzing team. The Colts boast one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. It would shock me quite honestly to see Manning hit anywhere near as much as Warner and Favre were hit by the Saints.
On offense, it is really tough to give anyone an edge here. It is quite eerie as to how similar both of these offenses are. While both teams have their number one targets in Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston respectively, they spread the ball around so much that fantasy owners of any Colts or Saints are probably bruised from beating their heads in throughout the season in frustration. At tight end you have two of the best tight ends in the NFL opposing each other. Where the Saints have a bit of an advantage is with the second tight end. Brees seemed just as comfortable throwing to David Thomas this season as he did Jeremy Shockey. Manning doesn’t have that luxury. However, teams that double Dallas Clark or Wayne usually get bit by Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie. Just ask the Jets how that worked out for them in the title game.
The Colts and Saints also have very similar running games. Both teams go with somewhat of a three-headed monster. While Joseph Addai and Pierre Thomas are technically the starters, Donald Brown and Reggie Bush get plenty of opportunities, with Mike Hart and Mike Bell carrying the ball on short-yardage and red zone plays. Joseph Addai has been hit or miss in the postseason averaging five yards per carry last week, but with no touchdowns in the playoffs. Reggie Bush on the other hand has come alive for the Saints in the postseason with touchdowns in both games. On top of that, Reggie Bush averaged 16.8 yards on the ground against the Arizona Cardinals and 16.5 in the air last game against the Minnesota Vikings. You just have no idea where this guy is coming from!
So how does such a great game on paper end on Super Bowl Sunday? I would love to see the Saints win on Sunday. It would be a nice change of pace rather than seeing Peyton Manning’s face everywhere for another offseason. As someone that has watched NFL football for now four decades, the turnaround that Sean Payton has done with the Saints may be the best turnaround I have ever seen in years. It was only a few years ago that Saints fans had to sit through those horrendous Aaron Brooks and Bobby Hebert seasons.
At the end of the day I just don’t see Peyton Manning losing this game. It doesn’t matter if they are down three or thirty-three going into the fourth quarter. Until I see different, nobody is beating Peyton Manning this year. I just think the Colts have too many weapons on offense that at some point or another will break the will of the Saints defense. I don’t like it, but I predict another Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl win and countless hours of Peyton Manning on television cutting meat for the next six months.
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