Today brings an end to the NFL season with the grandest spectacle in American sports, the Super Bowl. More than a billion people around the world will be watching, perhaps as much for the commercials and the spectacle as for the game itself. However, this year the game pits the best two teams of the 2009 season, both of which threatened to go unbeaten until late in the season, in tandem breaking a record for the longest that two teams went unbeaten in the regular season. As my friend King Banaian noted yesterday, it’s the first time since 1993 that the two #1 seeds in the playoffs have met in the Super Bowl, when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills.
Which team of destiny will cross the finish line? Let’s look at the matchups:
- Overall offense – The Colts can score, and have a good balance between the passing and running games. However, the Saints have a more explosive offense, both with the pass and the run. New Orleans gets the edge here.
- QB – Drew Brees has done a great job this year, and has been a solid QB in the NFL for years. Peyton Manning has been in the Super Bowl before and has been the best in the league for several years. His experience and talent gives Indianapolis the edge at this position.
- Defense – New Orleans has a good defense, but not a great one. The Colts’ D has been mainly overlooked this season as people focused on Manning, but they turned in a stellar performance against the Ravens the week after Baltimore rolled up over 30 points against the Patriots. The bend-but-don’t-break defense of the Colts gives Indianapolis a big edge over New Orleans.
- Special teams – The Colts do a good job on special teams, but the Saints have Reggie Bush — and Bush can burn just about anyone on kick returns. If there’s a game-changing play on special teams, it’s most likely going to be the Saints making it.
So who will win? I think this will be a good game, perhaps even as exciting as last year’s classic between Pittsburgh and Arizona. I doubt that either team will get ahead of the other by much more than a TD at any point in the game. If it’s a low-scoring game, then the Colts win it with their tough defense. If it turns into a shootout, then the Saints will have the advantage, with their deep threats and wide-open offense.
It’s tough, but I have to go with defense and the Colts. I’ll pick them to win a 24-20 squeaker. I’ll probably be pulling for the Saints, though, to win in their first-ever championship game.
Update: Congratulations, New Orleans — what a great season, and what a great game!