Last year, I confidently gave my three Super Bowl predictions, (Pitt straight up, Pitt minus the points, and the OVER) and went 2-1 (the Cards managed the cover). This year, I am not quite as confident. Both Indianapolis and New Orleans seem to have strengths and weaknesses... but they weren't consistently strong or weak enough to hang my hat on.
Indianapolis - I've finally come to appreciate Peyton Manning. Though I still think he makes the whole adjustments-at-the-line thing a little more difficult than he has to, the fact is that he is clearly the strength of the offense. Their running backs (both high draft picks) combined for one lousy year, and Manning's two best targets are very good, but I wouldn't consider them megastars. On defense, they get the job done, though if Dwight Freeney doesn't play, they would certainly struggle.
New Orleans - Drew Brees is a monster, and although the Saints don't have any All-World receivers, either, all of them are good enough to have their arms extended when a Brees pass falls into them. They have a solid running game to go with the pass offense. The Saints did struggle at the end of the season, and although they looked sluggish against the Vikings in the NFC Championship, they really did paste a lickin' on the Cardinals. Their pass defense is kinda lousy, and Manning isn't the kind of QB you want to see in this situation.
So what do I think?
I kinda have a feeling, but not strong enough to bet the Mitten. I think New Orleans will keep it a close game. Brees can keep up with Manning, and the Saints running game could pose a challenge. If the Saints run well, it limits the amount of time Manning is on the field. In addition, statistically the Super Bowl favorite is overpriced (meaning too many early betters - uber casual betters -bet heavy on the favorite, which moves the line past where it should be). In this case, the Colts opened as 4 point favorites, and the line moved to 5-1/2 as quick as you can blink. As of now, the line has settled in at 4-1/2. Because the Saints can run the ball and Colts are overpriced - Take New Orleans +4-1/2
I will not offer a straight-up pick. I just don't know. If the game is close and it comes down to a late figgie, how can I tell - two days in advance - who will be attempting the kick? I feel this game will come down to a 42-year old with limited range or the guy he's replacing that is coming off an injury to his hip or a second-year guy who won his job at mid-season.
The Colts, even with their high-flying offense, have had more than their share of low scoring games (seven times this season they've scored 20 or fewer points). And even with the Saints suspect defense, they have held their opponents to fewer then 20 points seven times. In other words, the scoreboard isn't always lit up when these two teams play. In addition, Colts coach Jim Caldwell is a former defensive coordinator, and Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is highly regarded in NFL circles. Given each team two weeks to game plan, this, to me, looks like an easy call. Remember two years ago, when the Giants upset the Patriots 17-14? The over/under was very close to what it is for this game - Take the UNDER of 56-1/2.
Now, to head to go get the fixin's for my guacamole, nachos, chorizo links, chips, soda...