If I Were a Betting Man…
On December 29, 2009, I made the statement that the Colts would not win Super Bowl XLIV. My reasoning was that their gutless decision to rest players, rather than go for the undefeated season, would cause them to be less than sharp in the playoffs. But now, with the Colts looking better than ever and a prohibitive favorite to beat the Saints, is it time for me to eat my words?
Yes, the Colts have dismantled both the Ravens and the Jets, giving up only 20 points while scoring 50. And yes, the Saints have looked pedestrian, needing five turnovers by the Vikings to escape with a three-point overtime win. But I stand by my words — the Colts will not win the Super Bowl.
And here is why:
1) The Colts cannot run the ball and the Saints can. With both offenses possessing incredibly prolific passing attacks, both defenses will be geared up to stop the pass and therefore will be susceptible to the rush. Add in the fact that both offenses are looking to keep the opposing offense off the field and the running game becomes even more important. In case you don’t believe that the Saints’ running game is better than the Colts, check out FootballOutsiders which has the Saints ranked 1st in rushing offense while the Colts are ranked 22nd.
2) Peyton Manning is good, but Drew Brees may be better. Sacrilege, you say. Yes, Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time and is incredibly funny in every commercial he does and may or may not be the next Tiger Woods but Brees arguably had a better season this year than Manning did. Brees had more TDs, fewer interceptions, a better completion percentage (highest ever), a higher yards per attempt and even a higher QB rating (which we won’t even dignify with an explanation, I’ll leave that for my book). Most of the numbers are close but the reality is that Brees’ performance this season was better than Manning’s.
3) Injuries. Yes, much has been made about Dwight Freeney’s ankle, and it could be a huge factor (the point spread has dropped a full point since media day, where most people finally got to see Freeney limping around) but the injuries that I’m focused on are the ones that have healed. New Orleans was a better than average defensive team through the first nine weeks of the season, but top cornerback Jabari Greer missed the next seven games while Tracy Porter (the other starting CB) was injured a week later, missing four games and being limited in the other three. In those seven games, the Saints’ passing defense fell apart. Both have since returned and will play in the Super Bowl, giving the Saints an above average defense once again.
What does this all mean — should you take the Saints plus the points? If I were a betting man, I would, because at worst, this is an even game. But I’ll go one step further and stand behind my statement that the Colts will not win the Super Bowl.
Saints in an upset.
For you gambling folk, I decided to include a couple fun proposition bets.
The first one is courtesy of my friend Mark Kamal…
Time it takes Carrie Underwood to sing the National Anthem: UNDER 1 minutes, 42 seconds (-145)
I was able to find four performances by Underwood singing the national anthem: the SEA/CAR playoff game in January 2006, the World Series game 3 in 2007, the 2006 MLB all-star game, and a 2005 NBA game. Her times in each of those: 1:39, 1:34, 1:38, and 1:42. The key seems to be her lack of lengthening out the last verse, specifically the word “free”, so I will take the under.
These are my favorites:
Pierre Thomas to rush for more yards than Joseph Addai (+125)
Addai is banged up and this Indy team cannot run the ball. They haven’t been able to all season, and it’s highly unlikely that they suddenly figured it all out over the bye week. Add in the fact that Addai is likely to be spelled considerably by Donald Brown and Mike Hart. As far as Thomas goes, the Saints are going to need to establish the run to have any chance here; Thomas is by far their best between-the-tackle runner. Look for him to get between 15-20 carries and grind out 80-90 yards. I don’t think Addai gets there.
Pierre Garcon under 62.5 total receiving yards (+110)
A bit of an overreaction to last week’s outing, where Garcon produced 151 receiving yards. But that may have had something to do with the guy covering Reggie Wayne. Garcon has only gone over 62.5 yards six out of 16 times this season (I threw out the two games where the Colts were resting starters). With the number of weapons the Colts have it’s a crapshoot who is going to get the targets and I’ll take my chances getting odds to say that Peyton will spread the ball to Addai, Collie, Wayne, Garcon and Clark pretty evenly this game.
Pierre Garcon over 10.5 yards first reception (-125)
I don’t see the Colts running a lot of underneath stuff for Garcon — especially early in the game — and with Garcon’s average of over 16 yards per catch, this seems like a good gamble (even though you are giving up odds here).