"Super Bowl Preview: Drew Brees' New Orleans Saints and Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts."

By Jonathan Schlosser

I’m watching the Pro Bowl as I write this, but the game everyone cares about actually comes next weekend, when the Colts face the Saints in rainy Miami. It will be the second Super Bowl for Manning’s Colts, but the Colts as a team have been to the game three times - one in Indianapolis and two while they were in Baltimore. For the Saints, this will be the first time. For them, this moment is even more monumental than for the guys on the other side of the ball. This will either help them or hurt them; it will build their intensity or it will overwhelm them. There’s no way to know and we won’t until we see them take the field, but either way it promises to be a terrific game.



First, the Saints’ offense against the Colts’ defense. The Saints have gotten a lot of press for being explosive and high-scoring and they deserve it. Drew Brees has been great and he has weapons all around him. It’s an offense built on speed: they spread the field and their receivers can all get a step. When one does, Brees is a surgeon. He finds the guy quickly and they can clip off fifteen yards a pass. Even behind Brees, Bush is a speed guy to the core. He catches out of the backfield and can take a screen to the house. It’s all about being fast.

And in that, the Colts’ defense is actually a pretty good match to shut them down. It’s a defense built, in the same way, on speed. They’re not the biggest guys, but they can move and they all run to the ball at a hundred miles an hour. They won’t have to worry about holding up the box because the Saints don’t run with power very often, and they’ll be able to drop back and cover. The key to this match-up will be how well they can keep a hold on the big play. That’s what the Bucs did when they beat the Saints during the year. If the Colts can keep a lid on the top of the field, they’ll be able to give themselves a chance to make some plays and swing the game in their favor.



Next: the Saints’ defense against the Colts’ offense. This is a defense that has thrived on turnovers. When they get them, they win. It’s that simple. They got a ton of them against the Vikings and they got fourteen points off of them while their offense was actually not doing anything. That has been their strength and a large part of how they win. As good as the Saints’ offense has been, they’ve blown people out because they tend to take the ball away from the other team, and that makes all the point spreads look that much wider.

They won’t be able to take the ball from Peyton Manning. That might be bold to say, but I really don’t think they will. Manning has been called a cyborg, a machine, a robot. None of these were all that far off. He’s been getting better every year and he’s at the pinnacle of his career. He comes up to the line and reads the defense and knows exactly what they are going to do and then he beats them. His throws are careful and he takes sacks when there is nothing open because he knows he can make it up on the next play. The Saints may be able to get their turnovers in other ways - letting the rookie receivers Collie and Garcon catch the ball and then trying to strip it, for instance - but I don’t think they’ll get more than maybe one pick. That would be a victory against Manning.

The Pick:

Like I said last week, I’m taking the Colts by four. The line came out and was right at it after I predicted it, so I’m feeling pretty good about it. I think the Saints will certainly score some points. The Colts defense might be a good match-up, but the Saints have enough weapons to break some big plays. Bush could take a punt all the way back. They’re going to get theirs. But they don’t have a hope against Manning. For a defense that lives and dies on takeaways, they’re in the worse position. Manning will figure out the Saints’ scheme by the second quarter; he’ll throw for three touchdowns, maybe one INT, and the Colts will keep scoring. Indianapolis wins 28-24.

On only one thing do I hope I’m wrong: the final score. Because this game could also be a barn-burner, like Arizona-Green Bay, and that would be insane. I hope it’s more like 49-42.

BYLINE:

Jonathan Schlosser is a writer and part-time library worker. He has published some short fiction and is working on finding a publisher for his novel. He has a B.A. in Writing, which means that, for a living, he is allowed to put away books at the library. He is also allowed to tell parents to tell their children to be quiet. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI. Email Jonathan at jonathan@zoiksonline.com.

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