Monday, February 1, 2010

"Who Dat" in Super Bowl XLIV??

The Super Bowl in Miami!

Two weeks of partying hard in South Beach; the ceremonial (and totally inconsequential) pro-bowl right in the middle; Nation-wide sports writers have only two teams to talk about, and thankfully for many, Brett Favre is not on either of those teams. Add to it all the drama and bulletin board material on media day. Too bad there doesn't seem to be any single person on either team who could deliver saucy "punch lines". Still, I would kill to be down there amidst all those festivities. Especially since I do not have a horse in the game this year, all the hype seem more attractive to me than the actual game. In fact, outside of Colts and Saints fan, most football fans probably can't wait for the draft and the next season to start.

But seriously, the Colts vs Saints match up could very well turn out to be a shootout for the ages. Or could just blow in our faces with a one-sided blowout. It is a rarity that 2 No.1 seeds make the super bowl; has not happened in ages. The Colts are essentially undefeated this year, except for those games Week 16 and Week 17 when the Colts rested most of their starters and threw away those 2 games. Peyton Manning is playing out of his mind. He seems to be picking apart anything that opposing defenses throw at him. It will be a shocker if he lays an egg in one of the 2 biggest games of his life yet, the other being his Super Bowl win a few years ago against the Bears (incidentally also in Miami). The Saints on the other hand have ridden the hot arm of Drew Brees and their imaginative offensive mind of their coach Sean Payton. They love to spread the field with multiple receivers and throw the ball all over.

The less talked about aspects of these teams are their defenses. The Colts defense may not be great on paper and may look under-sized, but as a team, they are fast and swarm around the ball, giving offenses a different kind of challenge than they normally face. Not to mention, Freeney and Mathis causing havoc from the ends. If at all there is a soft spot in this Colts defense, it is the rush from the middle. That is where their lack of size is an issue; they are susceptible to bruising runs up the middle. The Saints defense is a strange group in their own right. They too, are of the bend but do not break mode. The Saints D though, might let opponents get some big plays, but they are also known to make big plays themselves in the form of interceptions and fumbles.

As for the game this Sunday, the Colts should be able to move the ball up the field at will against the Saints D. It will be upto the Saints offense if they can hang with Peyton. The only way I see the Saints win, is if they keep the game close and have a chance to score on the last possession of the game, leaving no time for Peyton to come back. The Colts should make sure they do not fall prey to the ball-hawking Saints Defense and keep turnovers to the minimum. The key for both teams, is obviously their red zone performances. The Colts offense typically deals with TDs, and it will be detrimental for the Saints to settle for field goals when driving into Colts territory. Similarly, the Colts D are very good in red-zone defense. Holding opponents to field goals has been a major reason for the Colts to pull away from opponents. So they would ideally like to hold the Saints from reaching the end zone too many times.

Injuries could be a huge impact on this game. The Saints have a number of banged up players including Jeremy Shockey. But none more important to their team than Freeney for the Colts. Freeney (at least as of now) is supposed to have a 3rd degree ligament tear on his ankle. I am guessing, he gives it a shot to start the game, but it is very unlikely he will play every down or even if he will be effective whenever he is on the field. This tilts the boat all the more in favor of the Saints. Freeney is a beats of the Left End and demands double teams on pass protection when in full strength. If he is not at full speed (speed is the most critical attribute to a DE, especially for Freeney's spin moves), the Saints could maybe manage to send an extra receiver on routes, who otherwise would have been an extra body to block Freeney. Also, the protection could concentrate on containing Mathis on the other side of the Colts line, giving ample time for Brees in the pocket. And time for Brees is the worst thing the Colts could wish for.

Whatever the outcome of Superbowl XLIV, it will be a good story. Peyton will only strengthen his resume to cement his place as one of the best QBs ever with a win. The saints would love to take home the Championship to New Orleans, which is still under the process of recovering from Hurricane Katrina. A Super Bowl win for the city will be a morale boost for the city. Also, the Saints players could not give back to their fans for all their positive energy and support, including the whole "who dat" movement the last few weeks. I still think the Colts will have enough in them to hold off the Saints. But the Saints should be able to cover the 5.5 points spread.

My Pick:
Against the spread: Saints (-5.5)
Outright Win: Colts


Last Week (without the spread): 2-0
Last Week (against the spread): 0-2

Playoffs (without the spread): 5-5
Playoffs (against the spread): 4-6

Regular season Record (without the spread): 178-76

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