by Tom Weppel
As you know, Super Bowl XLIV will be played…Sunday night in South Florida. The Colts are the AFC Champs, while the Saints are the NFC Champions. This is the tenth Super Bowl to be played in South Florida. The NFL is drawn to the area, for obvious reasons.
For the Saints, this is their first Super Bowl as a franchise. After 42 years of playing, they have finally reached the chance to play for the title. That leaves only four teams who have NOT played in the Super Bowl…the Jaguars, the Texans, the Browns, and the Lions.
The last time the game was played in this Stadium, the Colts were in it…three years ago, when they beat the Bears to win their second SB title as a franchise. It was the first title for Peyton Manning, and so he will be going for his second ring, along with a number of his teammates.
And of course, for this contest, the main man is indeed Manning. He has shown his abilities to completely tear up any defensive scheme thrown at him by all teams, no matter what the situation. Even against a team like the Jets, who were ranked #1 in defense in the NFL, Manning was able to know what to do and where to go after only a couple of series.
That said, it is going to be one tough task for the Saints defense to stop Manning and the Colts’ offense. Veteran S Darren Sharper and his DB mates will have to shut down a strong, solid receiving corps, with WR Reggie Wayne, TE Dallas Clark, and WR’s Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. If…and that is a scant ‘if’…the Saints can subdue the Indy passing game, they have a damn good shot at beating them. The Colts simply will not beat the Saints with their running game, which was last in the League.
On the other side, New Orleans does indeed have an effective offense, led by QB Drew Brees. While they work primarily thru their passing game as well, the Saints have a better rushing attack than the Colts do. RB’s Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Reggie Bush can gain yards behind a solid offensive line. Brees also has good receivers to go to, including Devry Henderson, Marques Colston, and Robert Meachem.
For the Colts defense, the talk all week has been about the ankle of Pro Bowl DE Dwight Freeney. He tore a ligament or two in the Jets game, and has had to go thru extensive rehab. There will be a question as to whether he will play, and if so, how effective he will be. If he does not play, Raheem Brock will play in his place.
Otherwise, the rest of the defense has done a credible job throughout the season. Their task will be primarily to stop the passing attack of Brees and the Saints, who can move down the field and score quite well.
The thinking here is that the Colts come into this with a lot of the players having been through this spectacle before. They know what to expect. They will be ready to play. You contrast that with the Saints, who might’ve simply been taken over by the pageantry of what this whole week has done, to the point where the game might be overkill.
When the dust settles here and everything is taken into consideration, I believe a vast majority of fans essentially EXPECT the Colts to win this contest. The feeling is that Manning will take a few series to feel out the Saints defensive scheme, then go into whatever mode he feels good and comfortable with, and simply outplaying New Orleans. Unless the Saints can simply make changes throughout the game, trying to confuse Manning, I would say that Indy has a solid shot at victory, while the Saints will simply be considered decent competitors. Hopefully it will be an entertaining, exciting game. We’ll see…