Colts keys to the game:
1.) The offensive line must protect Peyton Manning. If he gets any extra time, he can slice up the 26th ranked pass defense in the league. The Colts need to control the clock and allow Manning to do his thing.
2.) The Colts must stop the run. It is as simple as that. The Saints went from 8-8 to 13-3 for reasons other than Drew Brees and the passing game. They ranked sixth during the regular season in the running game, and the Colts need to make the Saints a one-dimensional team. Stopping the run would mean being able to play pass, which would lower Brees’ chances of converting the big play.
3.) Brees must be pressured. If Freeney can’t play or isn’t 100 percent, then Robert Mathis has to step it up. Brees cannot receive extra time to throw, because he will find an extra man downfield. The Saints have many threats to catch the ball, and the Colts defense will not be able to cover all of them.
Saints keys to the game:
1.) The Saints must run the ball like they did during the season. The best way to beat the Colts is with the running attack. If you can make the defense think, it hinders their proclivity to blitz, and it opens up the deep play action pass. The Saints are only ranked seventh out of 12 teams this postseason.
2.) The Saints must win the turnover battle. With a passing defense ranked 26th, the only way they can beat Manning is by forcing turnovers. The Saints ranked third in interceptions, first in interceptions brought back for touchdowns, fifth in fumble recoveries and first in fumbles brought back for touchdowns. However, they ranked 25th in total yards given up and 13th in total points scored by the opponent. What does this tell you? They are a defense that relies on the turnover to stop drives.
3.) The secondary has to play better at controlling the big play and continue to make plays. The passing defense allowed 284/yds per game this postseason, and they would have allowed more than the 42 points if the three interceptions weren’t made. In fact, the Minnesota Vikings are probably here facing the Colts if they didn’t make the picks. If the Saints want to win, they have to contain the deep threat. At least then, if they get into a shootout, it will take Manning a little longer to work his way down the field.
Colts 31, Saints 28
In Super Bowls past, we have seen a few good games and many duds. The Colts and Saints are looking more and more like an offensive shootout. I believe Freeney’s injury will hurt the Colts pass rush and allow Brees extra time to throw. Although I think the Colts will do a decent job at stopping the run, the hindered pass rush will open the door to also go outside with the run. Freeney may become a target in this one. On the Colts side, the Saints have no answer for Dallas Clark or Austin Collie, and I think Manning picks them a part all day. The recipe calls for an aerial assault on Sun Life Stadium. The one push that makes me choose the Colts in a free-for-all is the presence of Peyton Manning. If he has the ball in a close game late, I am betting on him to come through. The Saints only hope is to keep that from happening.