Super Bowl Preview: Why Colts, Saints Could Win The Game
Super Bowl XLIV will kick off tomorrow evening, marking the last game of what has been another fantastic year in the NFL. The Saints, winners of the NFC, have ridden the hot streak of Drew Brees and a resurgent defensive attack, while the Colts relied on Peyton Manning and a near-unstoppable passing attack to win the AFC. Here’s why each team has the capability of winning tomorrow night’s big game.
Why the Saints Could Win
Despite America jumping on the Saints’ bandwagon and becoming the favorite amonsgt fans, the Saints come into tomorrow night’s game as five-point underdogs. The spread is relatively high considering both teams were tops in the conference entering the playoffs, but this could be a good thing for the Saints.
Drew Brees will have to be on his “A” game in this matchup of two offenses that can score at will. While the game will not rival that of the Cardinals-Packers playoff game, Brees might have to match the best quarterback in the league point for point.
If there’s anyone in the league who can do that to Manning, it’s Brees. He has one of the smartest minds in the game, and his fantastic wide receiving corps makes him that much deadlier. Without Bob Sanders on defense, the Colts’ pass defense has been just average, allowing Mark Sanchez to throw for 257 yards in the AFC Championship Game. Prone to the big play, Brees could have his way with the secondary.
Look for Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, and Devery Henderson to stretch the field and open things underneath for tight end Jeremy Shockey or Reggie Bush out of the backfield.
Maybe just as important as the aerial attack is the Saints’ running game. The Saints have averaged just under 120 yards per game in the playoffs on the ground, and the suddenly resurgent Bush and Pierre Thomas lead a deadly two-headed attack that has set up the pass by keeping defenses honest.
At the beginning of the season, the question mark next to the Saints was whether or not their defense would be Championship-caliber or just good enough. The answer has been a little bit of both, but the real story is their ability to take the ball away. During the regular season, the Saints ranked second in the NFC, behind Green Bay, in takeaways and recorded 26 interceptions, five being brought back for touchdowns.
The pass defense struggled statistically, ranking just 26th in the league but have done a better job in the playoffs, limiting Kurt Warner and Brett Favre while also forcing them to make mistakes. Led by Darren Sharper, the pass defense had better come prepared, because we all know Manning will.
The Colts lack a true ground game, but then again why do they need one? Ranking dead last one the ground, the Saints will need to make sure they take away any yards the Colts do try to get rushing, because failing to do so will add another list to the problems they will face against the Colts’ offense.
The Saints recorded 35 sacks in the regular season, and while the pressure from the defensive line has been better in the post-season, they still have just one sack in their two post-season games. Their job will not get any easier when they go up against one of the best offensive lines in football, so while bringing extra pressure might be necessary, Manning could also make them pay.
Why The Colts Could Win
Two words: Peyton Manning. He has been the talk of Miami the last two weeks, and rightfully so. Manning enters his second Super Bowl, this time knowing what to expect and having some of the pressure off him. That can only help the Colts when they kick off Sunday, but there are others that have been helping him too.
Entering the season, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon probably could have been mistaken for a breed of dog and a French general, and no one would have noticed. Four months and 16 wins later, we now know then as two of the most underrated receivers in the game.
Granted, having Manning throw them the ball has helped exponentially, but their production has been important nonetheless. Everyone watching knows the Colts are not even going to pretend to run the ball, meaning Manning will have to be on his game from the get-go.
As was said before, the Saints have a knack for ball-hawking so Manning will have to take care of the ball. He has been nearly unsatoppable in the playoffs, averaging over 311 yards per game against two of the best defenses in football (Baltimore and New York), and there are no signs to believe he will slow down.
Finding Reggie Wayne early will be key in freeing up Collie and Garcon later in the game, and tight end Dallas Clark will be able to stretch the field if the receivers start off well.
Just as it is for the Saints, the Colts’ defense has been through its ups-and-downs and has relied on their offense to take some of the load off. That won’t be possible on the game’s biggest stage, meaning someone is going to have to step up and shut down the Saints’ defense.
The unlucky winners of that job are linebackers Clint Session and Gary Brackett, who lead the NFL’s 18th ranked defense into battle. Rookie cornerback Jarraud Powers has had an excellent first season, but he will meet his toughest match yet by trying to stay with the physical Saints’ receivers. If he can take Colston out of the game and force Brees to find other options, it makes it that much easier for the Colts.
The biggest question all week has been the health status of defensive end Dwight Freeney. While reports are saying he is likely to play, the real question is how effective can he be? Clearly his presence is important to the Colts’ defensive line, but as a right defensive end, trying to push off with his right ankle will be painful.
If he is able to play and be somewhat effective, the Colts’ defense sees a huge upgrade against the pass. Against the run, Brackett and Session will have to play at the point of attack and try to slow down Bush and Thomas. If they can take away the run and force Brees to throw more than he wants to (if that’s possible), mistakes are more likely to occur.
Both teams have had fantastic seasons and are here for a reason. In what should be one of the higher-scoring games in Super Bowl history, the result could come down to who makes less mistakes. The team who forces more turnovers is not only losing out on a possession, but also giving the ball back to a high-octane offense.
The Colts will ultimately prove to be too much for the Saints on offense, and New Orleans will fail to catch up. Manning will be the MVP of the game after slicing up the Saints’ defense in a 34-24 Colts’ victory.
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