The two weeks between the Conference Championships and the SuperBowl are a time for football overload. There are so many newspaper articles, so many opinions and interviews on TV and on-line that most of us want to shout ” Enough already ! Let the Game begin !!” This year , for once, I’ll be fresh for the game , not jaded. I stopped subscribing to newspapers almost 8 months ago and I’ve made it a point not to watch the sports news on TV. Even on Super Bowl Sunday, I plan to begin watching just half an hour before the game starts ; that way I won’t be suffering from pigskin boredom even before the teams trot onto the field.
It should be an exciting game . Both teams are offensive powerhouses and there should be plenty of points put on the scoreboard. I’m not one of those purists who loves a low scoring defensive struggle . Certainly I want the game to be close but I prefer a 30 -27 barnburner to a 6-3 slugfest. By all indications we are in for the former. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are the two most potent QB’s in all of pro football and both of them have a corps of fleet WR’s who can catch the ball. We know that they are both going to put a lot of points on the board; the question is who is going to put up more.
On offense, neither running attack is likely to be very effective . Joseph Addai & Donald Brown ( Colts ) and Lynell Hamilton ( Saints) are decent RB’s. The one gamebreaker of the lot is Reggie Bush but I don’t think he will be able to replicate his performance against the Cardinals. The Colt run defense was impressive against the Jets and the Ravens and I expect they will be able to contain Reggie Bush also. Of the passing attacks, the one question mark I have is the Indy pass rush which depends so much on the relentless Dwight Freeney. I don’t think Freeney will miss the game but if he is hampered by his ankle injury, Brees could have a field day. The Conference Championship game was the only time I’ve seen Brees pressured. At other times , he has been cool and clinical in picking apart the opposing pass defense. He was extremely impressive against Arizona in the Division Championship game when the Cards scored on the first play of the game only to have the Saints score the next 21 points en route to a 45-14 shellacking. The Colt defense will have to contain him early so that Manning doesn’t begin in too deep a hole. I think they can, providing a healthy Freeney is able to help the undersized Colt defensive line mount a credible pass rush. The Colt CB’s are not household names but they are pretty good. They will have to be in order to negate Marcus Colston , Robert Meacham and Co.
I didn’t care for Defensive Co-ordinator Greg Williams remarks about targeting Peyton Manning . I thought that the Saints defense played dirty in the Minnesota game , subjecting Brett Favre to several cheap shots. However, Manning is a different proposition from the 40 year old Favre. He gets rid of the ball so quicklyand he has such great vision that he will be a difficult target . Greg Williams is a good coach but Manning is the best QB now playing, maybe the best of all time, and he will make the N. O defense pay if they are over aggressive. The Saints defense is pretty good but it is not in the same class as that of the Ravens or the Jets… and we know what happened in those two games.
Overall the two teams are well matched. The Colts have the slightly the better passing attack, the Saints have the edge in rushing . Defensively, the two teams are about even. The Saints are better on special teams because of Reggie Bush but he is prone to fumbleitis. Coaching, call it a dead heat. I always liked Sean Payton beginning with the time he was offensive co-ordinator for the Giants and Williams has been successful as a defensive co-ordinator wherever he has been.Caldwell , on the other side of the field, is a worthy successor to Tony Dungy. The big advantage the Colts have is the kicking game , where the veteran Matt Stover can be relied on to deliver under pressure. In a close game , that will be the difference.
Picking a winner is difficult because I like both teams. The Colts have always been my favorite AFC team because of Manning and because of their low key coach ( first Tony Dungy, now Jim Caldwell). I like all the Saints coaches and players , except for that loudmouth Jeremy Shockey. And of course, there is the Cinderella element to the Saints success this year.I won’t be unhappy no matter who wins , but If I have to pick a winner……
Providing the Saints don’t jump out to a quick two TD lead, I pick the Colts to win in a thriller, say 30 -24.
The last two years the Super Bowl has provided us with thrilling close contests. Hope this makes it three in a row.