Super Bowl XLIV (44)

Sun Life Stadium – Miami, Florida

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (NFC 15-3) +5 vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (AFC 16-2) OVER/UNDER 56.5pts

Plenty of story lines in this one. New Orleans’ “First Family of Football”, the Manning’s, will be pulling for Indianapolis and the Colts second Super Bowl Title in four seasons because, of course, quarterback Peyton Manning is Archie’s son. Archie, of course, is the former Saints quarterback who’s been with the Saints organization for 39 years, now as a broadcaster. In case you were wondering, he won’t be in the radio booth Sunday.

The Saints will be making their first Super Bowl appearance in the 43 year history of the franchise. Just five years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the “Big Easy”, quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints are carrying, not just a team, the entire city of New Orleans and surrounding areas that were devastated by the storm.

OK. Let’s look at the numbers because this game could be like a “pinball machine” going crazy with bells ringing and points flying. The Saints have the league’s top offense averaging just under 32 points per game. Brees was the league’s top rated passer throwing for 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns. The Colts ranked seventh overall in offense scoring 26 points per game. Manning was right behind Brees throwing for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns. The advantage could go to the Saints because their running game ranked sixth in the league while the Colts’ ranked dead last. The Saints averaging about 131 yards a game using a trio of backs featuring former USC Heisman Trophy winner, Reggie Bush. The Colts only averaged about 80 yards a game on the ground featuring LSU product Joseph Addai who was effective in the “Red Zone” scoring 10 TD’s off the run putting him sixth in the league. So far this post-season, Indy hasn’t scored on the ground relying on Manning’s golden arm while the Saints have totaled three TD’s from land in the playoffs.

Defensively, both teams are classic “bend, but don’t break” teams allowing yardage between the 20’s and tightening up when opponents get in that red zone.  The Colts have been impressive during the playoffs after ranking eighth in scoring defense during the regular season giving up an average of 19 points per game. They’ve pretty much shut down both the Baltimore Ravens and, after allowing yardage and two touchdowns in the first half, dominated the New York Jets in the AFC Championship shutting them out in the second half.  But, all-pro defensive end Dwight Freeney is going to be hampered because of a severely sprained right ankle that occurred against the Jets.

The Saints ranked 20th in the league during the season allowing 21 points per contest.  The Saints like to gamble on defense and are opportunistic having forced 39 turnovers during the regular season and seven during the playoffs. New Orleans Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams likes to go after the quarterback. They knocked a couple of future hall-of-famers out forcing Arizona QB Kurt Warner out of the divisional playoff game and into retirement, then ganging up on Minnesota’s Brett Favre. The Vikings amassed double the yardage the Saints totaled in the NFC Championship. Five turnovers were the difference.

It’s hard to go against Peyton Manning and the Colts because Manning is a surgeon on the field cutting up the league’s best defense for 377 passing yards and three TD’s in the AFC Championship. But Brees and the Saints can light it up as well. So, it’s about the defenses. Because Freeney, the Colts monster pass-rusher, will be much less than 100%, I think the Saints’ opportunistic defense might have the edge and will come at a third straight future hall-of-fame QB with a bull-rush causing turnovers which, ultimately, will be the difference in the game. That plays right into New Orleans’ hands. This game will be something like, 43-38. A Colts turnover or two will be the difference. SAINTS, 43-38.

MISSED PLAYOFFS: LOS ANGELES*
*15 years, 22 weeks and counting.  Expect a big announcement in the next week or two about Los Angeles returning to the NFL as early as next season.

Remember, use my picks to wager $$$ at your own risk. If you lose, I had nothing to do with it. If you win beaucoup $$$, a 10% tip would be cool.  But, I’m realistic. This is just for your entertainment…or not, and for me to keep my sports “mojo” going until “I’m back in the saddle”. Remember the league’s unofficial motto…“ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, MONDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY OR SATURDAY“…………

“Bloop Singles”

What an incredible Hall-of-Fame class that will be inducted in Canton, Ohio in the Summer. The “Magnificent Seven” features two of  the greatest who ever played the game.  San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, who also played for Oakland, Denver and Seattle in his 20 year journey to three Super Bowl Titles and becoming the all-time leading  receiver in history. Dallas Cowboys running back Emmett Smith, who finished his career in Arizona, won three Super Bowls as well and is the all-time leading rusher in league history.

Joining them for induction August 7th at the Hall, former New Orleans Saints linebacker Ricky Jackson, former Washington Redskins offensive lineman Russ Grimm, Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little, Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman John Randle and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

Two glaring names didn’t make this year’s cut. Wide receivers Tim Brown of the LA/Oakland Raiders and Chris Carter who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings. Sure shots for the class of 2011.

No Kobe. No Bynum. No problem. Remember. Lakers coach Phil Jackson calls the 82 game regular season the “marathon” that prepares you for the “sprint” that is the playoffs. No worries.

I don’t know about you. But, to me, Super Bowl Sunday is the TRUE end to the Holiday Season. ENJOY!!

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