Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

I wrote a longer version of this article in my rough draft, but I’m going to do everyone a favor and just skip the foreplay. By now, your well aware of all the storylines centered around Super Bowl XLIV because it’s been shoved down your throat the past two weeks.

So let’s just get naked and do this thing already.

With everyone focused on Peyton Manning’s brilliance, Dwight Freeney’s injury and the Saints’ “destiny,” fans and analysts alike aren’t paying much attention to something that could be the difference in the end.

Whether it’s pounding it up the middle with Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell or testing the edge with Reggie Bush, the Saints can run the ball. In fact, they can run the ball better than people give them credit for.

What’s one of the best ways to beat Manning? If you said “with pressure” then you’d be right, but that’s easier said than done. The Saints battered Kurt Warner and Brett Favre into mistakes in their last two games, but Manning excels at reading a defense at the line of scrimmage, recognizing the coverage and getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Chances are that New Orleans won’t get to Manning consistently enough for it to play a huge factor in the outcome.

No, the best way to beat Manning is to keep him on the sidelines. The Saints can accomplish that by controlling the line of scrimmage and pounding the rock. Once they’ve done that, then the passing game will open up and due to Freeney’s injury, the Colts won’t be able to generate enough pressure with their front four to slow Brees down. If they blitz, Brees can burn them by throwing away from their coverage, which is something he specializes in.

While Brees, Bush, Jeremy Shockey, Darren Sharper and a host of other Saints will certainly play a key role tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pierre Thomas takes on the MVP award tonight. He could wind up being the backbone of the Saints’ offense and the key to keeping Manning on the sidelines.

The Saints win this game with their ground game, and I’m willing to bet that it’ll be a lower scoring game than people think.

Saints 24, Colts 23.


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Reggie Wayne re-aggravates knee injury

As if the Colts needed any more injury issues, receiver Reggie Wayne left practice 20 minutes early on Friday after re-aggravating a knee injury that he’s battled all season.

From ESPN.com:

He’s still expected to play in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The four-time Pro Bowl receiver left practice 20 minutes early after aggravating an injured right knee.

Coach Jim Caldwell said Wayne hurt the soft tissue below his kneecap. Wayne is listed as probable and Caldwell plans on him playing against the New Orleans Saints. Wayne got through the injury most of the season.

Even though there’s no concern of Wayne missing the game, this has been a frustrating week for the Colts in terms of injuries. Dwight Freeney is still listed as questionable after not being able to practice the past two weeks and now Wayne re-aggravates a knee injury two days before the Super Bowl.

But hey, such as life in the NFL – no player is 100% right now.


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Freeney misses practice, listed as questionable

Injured Colts’ defensive end Dwight Freeney was hoping to test his injured ankle on Friday during practice, but it didn’t happen as he was unable to hit the field. He didn’t practice once during the last two weeks and is listed as questionable on the Colts’ injury report for Super Bowl XLIV.

On Tuesday, Freeney told the media that the pain in his ankle was subsiding and that it felt better each day. Although he hasn’t practiced, it doesn’t mean that he won’t suit up on Super Bowl Sunday and he still has two more nights to treat the ankle so you never know how he’ll feel in two days.

That said, I highly doubt that he’ll play in Indy’s base defense and will likely be limited throughout the game. The best case for him and the Colts is if he’s able to play in obvious passing situations and provide a decent rush on Drew Brees but even then, it’s doubtful that Freeney will be that effective given that he’s a speed rusher and his ankle won’t be 100%.

As I’ve written all week, if Freeney is limited the Saints have a huge advantage because they can concentrate on slowing down Robert Mathis and won’t have to worry about keeping an extra blocker in. They can use their full complement of offensive weapons, which is dangerous considering how explosive their offense can be. Brees might have a field day on Sunday if the Colts can’t figure out a way to drum up some pressure without Freeney.


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Super Bowl XLIV Preview: 5 Potential MVPs not named Manning or Brees

As part of our ongoing coverage of Super Bowl XLIV, here are five potential MVP candidates outside of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

1. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
Wayne only caught three passes for 55 yards in the AFC title game, but that was because he was locked up with stout corner Darrelle Revis, who has a habit of limiting a receiver’s impact. But Wayne caught eight passes for 63 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in the Divisional Round and Revis won’t be anywhere near the field come Sunday. Wayne has five 100-plus yard receiving efforts this season and one more could earn him the Super Bowl’s highest achievement (outside of a ring of course). He only caught two passes against the Bears the last time he played in the NFL title game, but they went for 61 yards and a touchdown. If his quarterback doesn’t yank the award away from him, then Wayne could be taking home the MVP hardware come Sunday night.

2. Marques Colston, WR, Saints
In an era dominated by diva receivers, Colston is one wideout that is easy to root for. He’s quiet, unselfish and brimming with talent. He’s also reliable and if he gets enough opportunities, he might explode on Sunday and earn the MVP award in his first ever trip to the Super Bowl. In the Divisional Round, Colston hauled in six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, and seems to save his best performances for top competition. In Week 6 of the regular season against the Giants, he caught eight passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, and in Week 12 against the Patriots he hauled in four passes for 121 yards and a score. Even in a losing effort against Dallas in Week 15, he caught five passes for 86 yards, including a 35-yard strike that led to a Saints’ field goal early in the second quarter. Outside of Brees, the only reason Colston might not have a fair opportunity to win the MVP award is because he’s on a team that is loaded with other receiving weapons. This is where the aforementioned unselfishness comes in, because there’s no doubt that Colston would rather catch one pass for 10 yards and win, than catch 10 passes for 150 yards and lose.

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Super Bowl XLIV Preview: 5 Factors the Colts must overcome

As part of the ongoing coverage leading up to Super Bowl XLIV, here are five factors the Colts must overcome to beat the Saints.

1. The potential loss of Freeney.
Come kickoff on Sunday, there will be no bigger hurdle for the Colts to overcome than if defensive end Dwight Freeney can’t play, or is limited due to an ankle injury. He’s undoubtedly Indy’s best defender and is a game-changer in every sense of the word. If he can’t play, the Saints don’t have to worry about keeping extra blockers in to protect Drew Brees and can focus most of their attention on slowing down Robert Mathis. Pressure is the key to disrupting any offense and the same can be said for the Saints’ high-powered attack. As it stands now, Freeney wants to play and should dress. But considering he’s a speed rusher and has a tear in his ankle, how effective does anyone think he’ll actually be? Barring the ankle being completely healed, the Colts have a serious problem on their hand.

2. Slowing down Brees.
For all that is said about Drew Brees, he still doesn’t get enough credit for being able to read a defense and deliver timely, accurate passes. What makes him unique is that he has accuracy on all three levels, in that he can complete the short to intermediate route with as much ease as he can the deep pass. Another thing Brees does well is scanning the field and throwing away from the coverage. Over the last half of the season, nine quarterbacks threw for two or more touchdowns against the Colts, who gave up big plays in the AFC Championship Game to the usually offensively challenged Jets. Brees has a plethora of weapons to use at his disposal and Indy doesn’t have the personnel to go toe-to-toe with all the Saints’ receivers. The best way to slow down Brees is to pressure him, but as was noted above, that could be a problem for the Colts if Freeney is limited.

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