Us Razzballians thought we would set the world aflame and do what nobody has ever done in the world of football blogging; make Super Bowl predictions! Yes, I know we are stepping out on a decrepit, old, rotting bridge that could collapse at anytime, but if we make it across, we have crossed over into a world of unrealized opportunity and mystical oneness. Or, just a world full of maybe a little too much Peyton Manning man love.
Chet Gresham (that’s me, Doc):
When you stack the Colts and Saints up next to each other you get one big mass of football player flesh and on the outside it seems to come out fairly even. Yes, the Saints have an advantage on special teams, the Colts have a slight receiver advantage, the running backs could swing low to the Saints’ side if Bush , the defenses have their own strengths that make them worthwhile, and so on and so forth, and even when you look at the head of each team, the quarterback, you see two very similar players statistically, but one is better than the other. Often games like this come down to a big turnover (advantage Saints) or a big play (maybe advantage Saints), but in my mind this game comes down to Peyton Manning’s ability to perform under pressure, audible on the fly, and make quick and correct decisions. I know saying Manning is the key is a simple answer to a complex game, but he’s the one that can hold the most complexity in himself and at the same time act instinctively based on that complexity. It truly is an amazing thing to witness.
The Saints aren’t the machine that the Colts are. They play loose and force a lot of turnovers which is a great way to win games, but the Colts should be able to exploit a team with that kind of philosophy. It’s a little like the Matrix, but the machines win. Just think of Manning as Mr. Anderson or Peyton Manderson and the Saints as that wild orgy in one of the sequels that isn’t as good as the first one.
Indianapolis 40, New Orleans 27
I really wish I believed the Saints could win on Sunday, but no matter what angle I take on this game, I have a hard time seeing the Colts losing. For all the excellence of both passing games, I think the critical factor for the Saints may be their ability (or inability) to run the ball against the Colts. If they can run with success, control the clock, and not fall prey to the temptation to trade deep TD throws with the Colts, there’s a chance for victory — but I’d still probably bet on Manning on the last drive. If the Colts continue their playoff defensive success against the run, then I don’t see how the Saints will be able to keep pace with the Indy offense. The Freeney injury definitely hurts the Colts defense, but they always seem to be able to adjust for personnel loss capably.
Indianapolis 37, New Orleans 27
I don’t know if you heard or not, but Dwight Freeney is injured. I can see how you’d miss it given that every network is talking about it 24/7. Overplayed stories are annoying, but this one is pretty significant; the most significant impacts will be subtle yet critically important. With Dwight Freeney out there at 100% you have to chip or double team him. That means there’s one less receiver sent on routes, drastically decreasing your route combination possibilities. A healthy Freeney hinders your ability to utilize the tight end or running backs in passing situations because those are the players who would stay in and help.
Even if Freeney plays he will be nowhere near 100%. The Saints should be able to contain him with one offensive lineman. The Colts defense doesn’t rely on turnovers. Rather, they employ the “bend don’t break” philosophy that the Patriots won multiple Super Bowls with. The Colts don’t do it nearly as well but that is counterbalanced by their better offense.
The Saints should be able to move the ball with relative ease and score points. The Colts are likely game planning them to take away the big play but this is easier said than done. Sean Payton will probably run the ball more than people expect and put together methodical drives in order to chew the clock; as dangerous as his offense is the Colts are even more explosive. I think the Saints will put up 24 points in this contest.
Now let’s look at things from Indy’s perspective. Defensively they have fewer options and will hope for missteps from the Saints in the way of failed 3rd down conversions and turnovers. There’s no magic formula for stopping the Saints because it’s just not not possible. Dallas’s defense was legit and New Orleans completely picked them apart. The Colts will do their best to “keep everything in front of them,” tackle well, and pick spots to be aggressive.
I refuse to bet against Peyton Manning. A couple years ago the conversation revolved around how Peyton Manning “wasn’t clutch” and might not ever “win the big one.” I entered a contest in the New York Times to discuss this idea. My argument then was basically that this idea was completely ludicrous, that he would likely win multiple Super Bowls, and that at the end of his career he’d be considered the best quarterback in history. I am very anti-bandwagon and Peyton ended up making me look smart. My argument was a finalist but I didn’t win.
Defense and a great rushing attack do not win championships in the modern NFL. You know what wins? Superb quarterback play. It’s nice to have other useful things. No one is going to say that a team would rather not have strengths in other areas, but it’s simply not necessary.
In keeping with my argument, how can I not go with the greatest quarterback in NFL history? Although the Freeney thing hurts them I still think the Colts should still win this game. Peyton’s had two weeks to dissect their defense.
People are getting carried away talking about how “opportunistic” the Saints defense is and how they will blitz Peyton to “put pressure on him.” The Jets already tried that (guess what: they’re a lot better at it than the Saints are). How did that work out for them? Not well. Peyton, the master tactician, will recognize the vast majority of Gregg Williams’ blitz packages and exploit them mercilessly. Drew Brees is a great quarterback and one of my favorite players but he’s not Peyton.
Indianapolis 31, New Orleans 24