This game features two very good teams with interesting flaws. To my mind, the most interesting flaw is the Colts’ lack of a running game, which ought to put to rest the old saw about how you win playoff games by running-and-stopping-the-run. They make up for it, of course, with (maybe) the most cerebral quarterback in league history and (certainly) a corps of receivers that is second to none. Plenty of teams in the league would be happy to have Garcon as a #2 receiver, or Collie as a go-to slot guy in the Welker mode; on the Colts, those two guys understand their place down the totem pole from Wayne and Clark . . . and yet Manning still seems to love throwing to all of them.
Brees is smart, scrappy, and spectacularly accurate. He has good receivers to throw to himself, and all bets are off if Bush has one of his occasional rush/receive/return monster games. But the Saints needed a goofball final play from Favre AND a lucky coin toss in overtime to beat the Vikings. If this game comes down to the wire – and I have a hunch it will – which passer+receivers group would you rather bet the farm on? I like the odds of Manning-to-Wayne, Manning-to-Clark, and Manning-to-Youngster-X about as well as I like the odds of anything in sports.
Colts by 3.
Saints by 7.
As much as I'd like to think otherwise, the Saints don't stand a chance. Peyton Manning and the Indy offense are going to open up the first half with two quick scores and never look back on the way to a 42 point outburst. Meanwhile, Drew Brees and the Saints are going to spend most of the first half trying to get out of their own half of the field. Reggie Bush is going to run for 250 yards (side to side) and Brees is going to spend more time looking up at the beautiful Miami sky than he will down the field at his receivers. Several late scores make it seem closer than it was.
Colts 14. "42-28"
Let me state for the record that my heart is rooting for the Saints, but my wallet is rooting for the Colts. Peyton Manning is playing at a level never before witnessed in professional football, and doing it with a grade-B receiving corp. The Colts defense is highly underrated and it looks like Freeney will be fine for the game, but even if he isn't that doesn't matter. The Colts are going to run away with this game and as much as I want to see a good game AND see the Saints win I'm predicting a rout.
Colts by 11. "31-20".
Saints by 3. "31-28".
Indy by 4. "35-31".