Better Early Than Later, Right? (Super Bowl Prediction)
A) For once, I'd like to be early with something.
B) I think that for every soul that's saying/praying it's a high scoring affair, this will be San Fran/Denver SB XXIV turrible. Indy's playing the role of San Fran, in case folks are unclear.
C) I want to devote some time towards the NBA and by putting this next to last NFL piece out of the way, I can do so with zero lingering distractions.
AFC Champion Indy versus NFC Champion New Orleans
NO's Storyline: Second Verse Not The Same As The First.
- Me thinks we're all familiar with the Saints' song by now, aren't we? Much maligned franchise in the Bayou, had Archie Manning and did squat in the 70s. Trudged through the 80s until Jim Mora came along, built a really good D that went through the early 90s...but won 0 playoff games. Then comes Mike Ditka maybe a decade too late, the infamous debacle that was the Ricky Williams deal and moderate success in the Double 0's. Hell, their first playoff win in franchise history sent the Super Bowl Champion Rams home the year after Vermeil walked away. In any event, 2006 is the year Saints fans will point to as the turning point because of three arrivals.
Sean Payton as head coach. Drew Brees via free agency. Reggie Bush via NFL Draft.
While Bush hasn't been what we thought he would, Payton and Brees have exceeded all expectations. They were a game away from the Super Bowl when Indianapolis won its first Super Bowl three seasons ago and now, they're here this season. Unfortunately for them, the game's Cerebral Assassin is waiting to drop the not so proverbial hammer on them. (Did you ever think you'd see the day when Peyton Manning would be the villain in a Super Bowl?) New Orleans is one of the small, handful of teams that can boast an offense as potent as Indy's. Unfortunately, their D while able to cause turnovers...isn't as stout as it needs to be to really slow Indy down. That's where the problem comes in, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.
For Brees, Bush and a few others, it's a first time deal that they hope won't be their last. For folks like Shockey, who was persona non grata for NYG's improbable run two seasons ago, it's a shot at redemption and a chance to directly impact the final outcome as it were. Still, the guy wearing that 18 jersey in Crip Blue won't go down quietly.
Indy's Storyline: Respect Their Conglomerate
- By this point, can we honestly be shocked by anything Peyton does anymore? His first time out, in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, he rallied the Colts from 18 down to hold off the New England Patriots. The Blue Crew since then, have not missed a beat. They've won more than 10 games every year in the last decade with the exception of just ONE. That year ironically, was their last in the AFC East before realignment took over. For all that I've done to say that Tom Brady is the new age Joe Montana, perhaps I got it wrong. Joe never lost a Super Bowl. Joe when the money was on the line and everything was at a fever pitch, came through. I guess you could say that once Peyton overcame the nemesis that was New England, the limit was the sky for Peyton and all he could do.
Sure, the Chargers gave him fits the previous two seasons since that Super Bowl win but with them disposed of by the Jets...perhaps resting those starters in Week 15 was a moot point. Indianapolis closed out the decade 14-2, after starting it 14-0. But really, what's left to say about Indianapolis that hasn't been said or will be said going forward? They've got the game's most Cerebral field general, they've got a supporting cast around him that might not be sexy in terms of name value...but they get the job done better than most.
- It's strength on strength, only Indy's strength wins out because of Peyton. That and the fact that Indy's strength is going up against NO's glaring weakness. Defense. Can they create enough looks that will frustrate and confuse Peyton enough to be turnover prone? Will they not get burned by blitzing Peyton, leaving those corners in one on one situations with that bevy of receivers? At best, this might be the great shootout that everyone's hoping for. At worst, this could get fugly. I'm talking San Fran dissecting Denver in Super Bowl XXIV fugly. (That ranks in my Top 3 of worst SB beatings of all time. Dallas/Buffalo are in that list two, you can take your choice which is which.)
The Jets were the league's top ranked D and Indy made them look like they were 31st ranked. NO's D isn't ranked that high and all things being equal, I didn't see enough on Sunday to have me believe they can contain or even slow down Peyton. NO has to get up early and stay up. They can't have slippage, they can't have lapses. The often used term "they must play a perfect game to win" applies and then some here. Nothing short of a perfect game for New Orleans will give this city and its much maligned fan base its first ever Lombardi Trophy. NOTHING. If it's a close game, Indy wins. If it's a shootout, Indy wins. New Orleans has to get contributions from its running game to slow down a pass rush that will get to Brees early and often.
So while I'm 0-my last few SB picks, here's one I make with great certainty unlike years past.
Indianapolis goes 2 for 2 and New Orleans gets blasted by yet another hurricane, this time its name is Peyton.