Saturday, February 06, 2010

Last Call

The final score isn't going to be on the order of 13-10. Other than that, forecasting Super Bowl XLIV is blindfolded dart-throwing as handicapping.

In the AFC championship game, the Colts couldn't touch the end zone for the first 28 minutes of the game. They would up scoring 30. In the NFC championship game, the Saints could barely make a first down in the second half and overtime. They wound up scoring 31. Those totals were against defenses much better than their own. So I like the over. Who doesn't?

But as for who's going to win, my opinions remains more fluid. I believe that the line of Saints getting five is a tiny bit, say 1 1/2 points, of an overlay. New Orleans' offense, which can both run and pass, is not getting the consideration from the market that it deserves. Then again, for all the twelve trillion words expounded on Dwight Freeney's ankle, there has been no attention to the curious case of Drew Brees. If Brees WASN'T playing hurt in the last part of the NFC title game, I'd be shocked. Tim Tebow made better throws in the Senior Bowl.

The Colts' defense is excellent at stopping the run -- when that's all it has to do. It can frustrate an opponent's passing, too -- if all said opponent does is throw. But when an opponent retains the initiative to do both, the Colts defense is stone average. The Saints average one hell of a lot of points per game. Seems reasonable to expect the same tomorrow.

Alas (oh, come on, any neutral city fan with a soul will root for the Saints. The Colts are easy to respect and admire but difficult to embrace.), I do not think one hell of a lot of points will win for New Orleans. It seems silly to waste too much mental energy analyzing this Super Bowl when it so obviously hinges on the one thing, or rather person, even the non-football fans at your party know. This is Peyton Manning's game to win or lose, and he wins far more than he loses.

Don't overthink football, ever. Is one team better at punching people in the mouth than the other? It's gonna win. No sane person could say in advance whether the Colts or Saints will have the ultimate edge of pushing their rival no-necks around. So it's time for Football Principle 2. Who's got the quarterback.

Brees is an outstanding quarterback. Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback having the finest season of his career. He just keeps getting better. This can be tracked from the way Patriots fans and the Patriots themselves treat Manning. The derision and contempt of 2003 has become the respect and fear of 2009-2010. If Manning plays as well as he did against the Jets, the Colts will be world champions easily. If Manning merely plays well, they will be world champions without the adverb.

Of course, the last time a Hall of Fame quarterback having his career year got to the Super Bowl, Tom Brady spent the game picking grass out of his ears, and the Giants upset the Patriots. Maybe New Orleans' pass rush can get to Manning for 60 minutes. Maybe. The Jets, whose pass rush is about five times better, got to Manning for a while. A while wasn't nearly long enough.

Colts to win. Colts to cover I think. It's a cruel world. Storylines and sentiment are seldom a match for genuine greatness.


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