Last week: 2-0
Playoffs: 7-3 (.700)
Overall picks (2009): 175-93 (.653)
Lock picks (2009): 13-4
Upset picks (2009): 20-30
Colts vs. Saints (at Miami) 31-34
One thing is sure about Super Bowl XLIV, a lot of points are going to be scored. Both teams rank in the top 5 in the major team passing categories. The two starting quarterbacks finished one-two in MVP voting. The Saints boast the league’s #1 scoring offense, while Indy has the #7. In terms of total yards, Indy ranks 9th and the Saints 1st. Though, that alone should not predict the Saints victory. The Saints may have had a higher margin of victory and more impressive blowout victories, but the Colts were consistent this year and are 16-0 (including playoffs) in games in which Peyton Manning has played the entire game, while the Saints actually did look bad to end the regular season losing their last 3, two of which Drew Brees started. I think its safe to say that the Saints at their best are better than their Colts at their best, but the Saints at their worst are worse than the Colts are their worst. Which version of the Saints that will show up is a mystery right now, though they did look really good in their first two playoff games, more so against the Cardinals than the Saints however. I also expect it to be very close because these are two similarly matched teams, though the Super Bowl odds don’t exactly suggest that right now so you might want to take advantage of that.
Both teams had relatively easy schedules this season and neither side has faced a quarterback of the caliber that they will be facing in the Super Bowl this week. However, we can look at how the two teams did against elite quarterbacks this year and to get a feel for how the individual secondaries are likely to stand up against the opposition this week. The 4 toughest quarterbacks (top 3rd) the Saints faced (in no particular order), Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, and Tony Romo were 88 for 142 for 1064 yards, 2 touchdowns and 5 picks in those 6 games. The top 4 that the Colts faced, Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, Matt Schaub (twice), were 122 for 179 for 1302 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 7 picks. The Saints also faced Eli Manning and Matt Ryan and held them to 33 for 73 for 467 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4 picks, which is impressive as well. Though this does not mean Peyton Manning is going to have an awful game, I think it shows that the Saints have a better chance at slowing down Peyton Manning than the Colts have at slowing down Drew Brees, and in a matchup this evenly matched, we need to look for little edges like this.
The Colts ability to stop the Saints is going to have a lot to do with whether or not they can get pressure on Drew Brees. The achilles heel of the Saints offense is left tackle, where Jermon Bushrod (nice name) is in his first year as a starter after an early injury to Jamaal Brown. In his worst game of the season, a loss to the Cowboys, Brees was sacked 4 times and fumbled twice. That was the only time I saw the Drew Brees led Saints struggle this year and I think the Colts will have to do something similar. They have one of the leagues best pass rushes, the issue, Dwight Freeney has a severely sprained ankle and will either not play or not play at anywhere near 100%. As we’ve seen before, when one guy goes down on a defensive line, especially a guy like Freeney, you don’t just lose him, the rest of the line struggles as well.
Teams like Dallas also showed that if you can take away his running game, Drew Brees will struggle. Stopping the rush is the Colts’ achilles heel and I expect the Saints rushing attack, led by the best guard duo in the NFL, to be more effective than the Colts’ and that will be another added advantage. Reggie Bush is the ex factor for the Saints. That might be the biggest difference between these two teams. The Colts don’t have anyone like that and Bush can beat you in so many different ways, running the ball, catching the ball, returning kicks and punts.
These two teams are fairly evenly matched. Both have good pass defenses and amazing pass offenses led by great depth at the wide receiver position and arguably the top best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, the Saints have a very subtle advantages. They have more experience against elite quarterbacks and they have had significantly better success against elite quarterbacks this year. The Colts are also going to struggle to do the things necessary to stop the Saints passing attack, pressure Brees and stop the run. The Saints should also have a moderate home field advantage. It won’t be the Superdome, but the South tends to stick together so I imagine the Miami crowd will be favoring the Saints. For this reason, I think the Saints will win a close game. I actually this its important I emphasize close. Either way, I expect this to be a close game with a lot of points, when we look at the Super Bowl odds, we see that the Colts are favored more than a field goal. Based on how close this game is going to be, I’d feel very confident taking the Saints to at least cover if not win because I expect that if they lose, it won’t be by much.