Who said fate wouldn’t bring these two almost perfect teams together? In one corner, the perennial AFC Champion Colts, a team that has everything going for them except being from Indiana. In the other corner, the newly ordained NFC Champion Saints, a team that has fruitfully ridden the waves of Hurricane Katrina to a place in our hearts as America’s Team.
On one hand, the Colts boast a fearsome pass rush, receiving depth and a quarterback that is sponsored by more companies than three-syllable words in his vocabulary. But what do the boys in black and gold do to prime-time NFL pitchmen? As we saw against the Vikings in what, so help us all, was the final nail in Brett Favre’s coffin, they pick them off.
Though their namesake might suggest it, I’m not saying that the Saints’ secondary is going to have another last-minute miracle. Still, if they can intercept Peyton’s pigskin even once, they’ve got a shot. A great shot? No. A good shot? Debatable. But how can I root against a team that embezzled the patriotic title of the Dallas Cowboys and retired* the Wrangler Jeans man? I’m calling divine intervention come Sunday.
*Like a chronic herpes sore, Brett Favre’s departure is provisional at best.
My Pick: Saints, 31-30
From my experience with watching sports and losing bets, I know that the people who always win these things look at the soft factors that professional analysts overlook. This prediction is dedicated to all those guys and gals who don’t know anything, but somehow guess point spreads with uncanny accuracy. Here are my five foolproof categories:
Team name: The Colts sounds a lot cooler, but I wouldn’t mess with the Saints in the wake of Katrina. Draw.
Team colors: The blue and white Colts jerseys are classy and remind me of Dodger Blue. The Saints jerseys are ugly and boring. My little sister calls them “icky.” Saints: 0, Colts: 1.
Coolest QB name: Drew Brees has to be the best name in football since Dick Butkus. Saints: 1, Colts: 1.
Coolest city: Mardi Gras vs. whatever is in Indianapolis. Breasts, jambalaya and warm weather vs. snow and Reggie Miller. Saints: 2, Colts: 1.
Most recognizable players: I see Manning’s face more than I see my own. Reggie Bush gets airtime, but he doesn’t start, so he doesn’t count. Is he still hooking up with the hottest Kardashian? Saints: 2, Colts: 2
Shit, it’s dead even. Whatever, I’ll go with the underdog.
My Pick: Saints, 38-28.
A classic in the making, a sure-fire winner, a good old down-home barnburner. Or maybe not. The Saints are good, yes. In fact, they have a quarterback in Drew Brees who threw for 33 touchdowns this season, and that’s a lot. Unfortunately, he has to get off the field at some point.
That’s where the problems start coming, because New Orleans’ average defense is looking right into the cold, dead eyes of the guy who threw 34. Peyton Manning was supposed to at least be challenged by the red-hot Jets and their league-best defense last week, but instead, he picked them apart for a ridonkulous 377 yards and three touchdowns — against the first-ranked defense in the NFL.
Think about that. Drew Brees and company are pretty potent, and their offense was enough to hopefully put Brett Favre away for real this time, but unless your name is Peyton, I don’t want to hear it. With a pass defense dangerously close to the bottom of the league, the only way the Saints take it is if Mr. Unfortunate Birthmark can out-gun the best in the game. I just don’t see it.
My Pick: Colts, 34-14.
On paper, the Saints are the better team. They ended the season ranked higher than the Colts in most offensive categories, and Drew Brees threw more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than Peyton Manning did. In fact, the only thing the Colts clearly did better than the Saints was run the ball. Unfortunately for the boys from the bayou, the game won’t be played on paper.
On Feb. 7, the Saints’ defense will line up against Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and he will do what he always does when the Colts need him to be great: He will find a way to win.
I’ve got nothing against Brees. I think he is a fine quarterback and will put up a valiant effort with the help of his high-octane offense. But his defense will not be able to stop Manning from picking them apart. Even without Dwight Freeney, the Colts defense is strong enough to stop Brees when they need to. There will be fireworks, and it will be a high scoring affair, but at this point, I know better than to bet against Peyton Manning.
My Pick: Colts, 35-31.