Super Bowl XLIV musings, considerations, predictions and other nonsense...
I have never been so conflicted with considering a winner for a football game. Seriously. Both teams are bleepin’ sick; without question, the best two teams in football. Colts are 16 & 2 right now. If they didn’t sit their top players/starters during the second half, in the only 2 games they did, they’d be 18 and 0; w/ a chance to achieve only the second perfect season in the modern era of football. By the way, the Colts (and the Saints to some extent) proved again, that resting players and taking losses, once the post-season goal of home field thru the playoffs is achieved, works perfectly.
Here's a post from Nov 16th (after week 12, NFL) on my fantasy football msg board when both Saints and Colts were undefeated. Believe it or not, I took flack for posing this obvious question:
"Is it too early to discuss a Colts/Saints superbowl as inevitiable? Colts have whipped off 18 straight regular season wins; they have a defense (not everyone is the Pats offense), and Manning has thrown for 300 yards in 6 of their 8 games! NUTS. And how about the Colts playcalling? it's ridiculous. Do Colts even have an O-Coordinator? And look out for the Saints; their defense is for real as well."
The only team I though could MAYBE beat the Saints was the Vikings; there was no one I thought could beat the Colts.
I’m bored w/ all the numbers and stats at this point (yards per game, points against, blah, yadda, etc), so I’m gonna focus on the other aspects of the teams and matchup. With regards to the numbers, suffice it to say, both teams, on both sides of the ball have very similar numbers; on offense, the numbers are tremendous; on defense, both teams are above average units, but have similar issues w/ consistency and yards against.
The Saints offense has more weapons than the Colts O (#1 offense this season). They have 3 legitimate running backs, who are all good! Pierre Thomas is a personal favorite of mine; a great team player, always positive (I follow him on twitter!), a smart runner, and catches well, out of the backfield. His back-up is Mike Bell, a very hard runner, who’s been averaging 10 carries a game, roughly, through the season. And of course, the still underrated Reggie Bush. Who is awesome. Nevermind all the fantasy-geeks (I myself, am one) crying about him not “putting up the numbers.” If you watch him play, you know. That long run he made for a TD (vs. Vikes?) this post-season, is what he’s capable of on ANY play. The reason he’s not used more is because this offense has SO many other great weapons, there just isn’t a need to use him more. It keeps everyone more energized, less beat up, and even more importantly, keeps the defenses guessing.
They also have a stacked WR corps, probably as good as the Colts, even taking Dallas Clark into account. Marques Colston, who is great, to be sure, might only have the third best set of hand out of them. Robert Meachem (in his third year, I think, and arguably the best WR on the team), and Devery Henderson both can actually catch the ball better; Colston is bigger, more physical and has more experience, which is why he’s the more known, and commands the double team, if any defense chooses to go that route. Lance Moore, their 4thWR is the best #4 in the leaugue! And Jeremy Shockey has proven all year, he can handle anything, when the game or a first down is on the line.
Drew Brees, has been awesome for years. And I mean awesome. If you watched him play for San Diego, you already knew this. Chargers might have a SBowl by now, if they kept him and got rid of Phillip Rivers, instead. He’s about as accurate as Manning and Warner, super-smart, very physical, and a born leader. Not sure how many MVP votes he got, but he should’ve gotten more.
Saints offensive line, however, while it appears very good to me, isn’t as good as the Colts offensive line. That is the only spot on the offense where the Colts have a marked advantage, when comparing offenses.
Colts offense? It’s the kind you dream about. When Manning’s career is eventually over – and it’s gonna be a long time, still, HATERS! – I don’t see any reason he won’t be considered the greatest QB of ALL TIME. He’s a bleepin’ master; he has mastered the QB position. Seriously.
Their running game is slightly above average, but just slightly. Saints is definitely better. Joseph Addai has had a great year for a seasoned veteran, and is definitely a force to catch out of the backfield, whenever Manning needs to go that route; he’s got good hands. Back up Donald Brown, in his first year, appears to be a good runner also. When don’t’ the Colts have good and great running backs, WR’s, tight ends, and QB’s? Seriously. THAT’s ownership. Colts can’t run the ball consistently, but they don’t need to, when you have as much talent in the passing/receiving game as the Colts do.
Speaking of receiving corps. It’s quite extraordinary. Reggie Wayne is one of the best in the league. He has been, is, and will be. Their next best WR is actually their tight end, Dallas Clark. STATS for him. Austin Collie is a rookie NUMBERS? And Pierre Garcon is a second-year guy, and BOTH have fantastic hands! They’re both physical, run amazing routes, and are very smart. It’s because of Peyton, these two already have the mental capacity and football smarts of 5-year players.
All that being said, former coach Tony Dungy is tripping ballz, for making this statement earlier in the week: “I would be absolutely shocked if the Colts lose Sunday.” If he’s serious, he’ll be the only one.
Tired of writing, so I’ll skip over the defense. Both teams have relatively the same type of defenses: any number of individual players are very good, and/or fast, and they fly to the ball and create turnovers. Saints, I think, led the league in Defensive TD’s. Both teams are aggressive, but neither is a shut-down D, or even consistent when they need to be. Here’s an irony, I suppose: since both offenses can, and will, score a lot, the defense will most likely be the deciding factor in the game.
The problem I’m having w/ deciding on a winner, is borne out of not knowing which D is actually going to play better today, or which QB will be able to make more plays, when the D finds the right blend of pressure and coverage. Ugh. Not sure yet.
Coaching edge goes to Saints. I don’t know a damn thing about COLTS coach, except he’s doing a fine job, without question. “Not getting in the way,” is highly underrated, when it comes to coaching in pro sports. Many coaches are in the way all the time (Reid), and can’t see the scoreboard for the clipboard. Or just don’t have any sense about what is actually going on in the field. COLTS coach is smart enough to guide the team, coach the team when necessary, and ‘see’ the team.
But make no mistake, this Saints team is the team that Sean Payton built. Did they award Coach of the Year, yet? Sean Payton (along w/ Brad Childress) is deserving. He truly has a great sense of how a game is going, and possesses a nice blend of simultaneously being both measured and thinking outside the box. He’s a good motivator, and a student of the game.
Experience. Colts have been there, done that. And without question, this is a legitimate advantage. Big, big game experience (and everything that leads up to it), begets more focus in subsequent games. I can assure you, Colts have shed some of the extra baggage – as fun as it is – that has overwhelmed, and still is overwhelming the Saints.
Honestly, I’m calling Colts O vs. Saints D, and Saints D vs Colts O, even. Completely even. I can’t see a single advantage either way. If Dwight Freeney plays, he’s going to be a shell of what he normally is, and a detriment to the team. The guy hasn’t STOOD ON HIS FEET all week, including last night’s practice. And ESPN, NFL Network, and other sports media should be ashamed of themselves for making him the lead story all week Sad, sad, journalism. Raheem Brock (former Eagle!), his backup, is a DE that could start on most teams in the NFL. He’ll be fine. It’s a hit, but he’ll be fine. Both QB’s are SO good, cerebrally, they’ll both be able to do almost anything they want against the opposing defense. THAT being said, the D will makes a little more plays, maybe even just ONE more play than the other, will decide the game. That notwithstanding, these defenses are just about equal.
Who do I WANT to win? Even that is tough! I’ve been a Colts fan since the mid-70’s, and I still have fond memories of seeing some Colts games at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, with my dad (who’s folks lived just outside Baltimore), when Ted Marchibroda was coach, and Lydell Mitchell and Bert Jones led the team! Oh, and how could I forget the Colts cheerleaders! To this day, the Colts’ cheerleaders had the best costumes, featuring a single blue upside horseshoe, on the rear (forget which side!) of white short shorts, and almost knee-high, white boots; awesome (couldn’t believe it, looked on line and couldn’t find a single pic of this era’s Colts cheerleaders)!
I love the colors, the logo (the upside down horseshoe is one of my favorite luck charms), and have loved that team through the ages. I also think Bill Polian and the Colts ownership is the best in football. Talk about leading, and managing a team! I’ll take this moment to state I think the Eagles ownership sucks, and has for years. Oh, and I don’t have all those other problems Baltimore fans have w/ the Colts leaving town in the “dead of night.” Whatever. It’s the NFL. Dumb, annoying shit happens.
And the Saints? They’re an awesome team, one of the most talented offenses I’ve ever seen in my 38 years of being a football fan, likeable, and if they win, they deserve it. The fans deserve it. And the town of New Orleans is one f America’s best. And they’ve never won. It’s very easy to pull for them.
So, for the first time ever, I decided I am not rooting for a team in the Superbowl - awesome!
Okay, a couple very specific predictions:
---Bush will run back at least 1 PR for a TD. Now, this is predicated on the Colts not “pitching around” him; which, they should be doing, by the way. He can’t break on if he never has the ball. They may – and I would, If I was coach – use him on Kickoffs.
---There will not be an onsides kick except a desperation kick. A surprise or strategical one is out of the question. Neither one of these defenses is a good enough match up against the other’s offense. That would be dumb.
---Manning will throw at least one interception.
---Sean Payton will engineer a very nice game plan, and call an excellent game, w/ a few obscure/trick plays thrown in. I am impressed w/ this guy’s creativity when it comes to play calling.
---The refs will make two inexcusable calls, both, going the Colts way.
---The game day announcers will be incredibly annoying. Find an AM station to listen to.
---The Who will rock at halftime, but Roger Daltry will still sing too much.
Final thoughts on the game…
If Colts take a 14 point lead at ANY point in the game, then Manning and the Colts get their second championship in the last several years (Colts w/ their third overall). The game will still be fun to watch, but Saints cannot come back from that. They would have to get a turnover, or defensive TD or a special teams TD to get back in it and have a chance.
The Saints must – and that cannot be emphasized enough – score on either a special teams TD or defensive TD, and create two turnovers, or they won’t win. It wouldn’t hurt for them to score first either.
For what it’s worth, I did take the Saints and 6 points for a small chunk of change. That decision, at least, I feel fairly confident about.
My absolute, best guess, on the final score:
Saints: 36 Colts: 33
The Saints will win on a long (40 yard+) game-winning field goal, as time runs out.