So here we have it: Super Bowl Weekend. Just two teams remaining: The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. Both were number one seeds in their conference, both had chances for undefeated seasons (although the Saints just lost a couple of games, whereas the Colts chose to lose their last two). The question remains: which team will win? Both teams have strong cases, and I’ll review them before making a final call.
The Case for the Colts
The Colts offense is incredibly potent this season. The best quarterback (sorry Tom Brady) in the game is having one of the best seasons of his career, as evidenced by his MVP award. And he has a phenomenal combination of wide receivers and especially tight ends to throw to. They have as dangerous an offense as they’ve ever had, and their two playoff games so far have shown they’re clicking on all cylinders. They also have a more than capable running back in Joseph Addai, so New Orleans won’t be able to sit on the pass as much. And Peyton Manning picks up the blitz better than anyone I’ve ever seen. It will be a trying day for the Saints defense, trying and tiring.
The Case for the Saints
The Saints have a slightly worse quarterback in Drew Brees, but they have a far more dangerous running back (and punt returner) in Reggie Bush. Running teams tend to do better in Super Bowls than passing teams do, so this gives an advantage to the Saints. They also will probably get a better fan turnout since New Orleans is close to Miami and the Saints fans are itching for a Super Bowl title. And while the Colts have the twin pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis (Freeney, by the way, is hurt and might not play), New Orleans has the more dynamic secondary with players like Darren Sharper. New Orleans’ defense has more playmakers on it, so they may be able to keep the Colts at bay at least some of the time.
Unfortunately, the Colts Will Win
As much as my heart wants to pick the Saints, “America’s Team,” to win the whole thing, I just don’t see it happening. Peyton Manning is just playing too well this season. Not only that, but the Colts are better at playing from behind than New Orleans is playing with the lead. I see the Saints putting some points up, maybe even taking a lead. But then I see Manning leading the Colts back in the late stages of the game and winning the whole thing. The offenses and defenses are very equally matched, so it comes down to who wants it more. The Saints are certainly hungry for a victory, having never tasted championship champagne before. And America is definitely pulling for them to win as some symbolic way of redeeming New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But that actually works in the COLTS’ favor. “Disrespect” is a powerful motivator in the NFL today. Teams will manufacture feelings of being disrespected even when there are none because it inspires players to play beyond their abilities. The Colts know that no one outside of Indiana wants them to win. So their backs are seemingly against the wall. But that makes them more dangerous, because they’ll be out to prove how much respect they deserve because of how good they really are. I see a close game, one with lots of scoring, but I think Indy is actually hungrier for a win than New Orleans is. Look for the defense to make a late-game play on the turnover-prone Saints, and look for it to be the game-winning play.