America's biggest sporting event is right around the corner and while many people will tune into the Super Bowl just to see the whacky, million dollar commercials and The Who play the halftime show, some of us are also interested in the actual game itself.
This year's Super Bowl will pit the top team from the NFC against the top team from the AFC as the New Orleans Saints march into their first ever Super Bowl to take on the Indianapolis Colts. It's the first time since Super Bowl XXVIII in '94 that features the top seeded teams from each conference.
But who has the edge in this match-up of the NFL's best and what will it take for each team to pull out the victory?
For the Saints to win: They need to try and run the ball. New Orleans ran for just 68 yards against a much tougher Vikings run defense in the NFC Championship but to have good success against the Colts, they need more from their running game. I don't mean that Drew Brees needs to hand the ball off 35-40 times but teams like the Dolphins and Jets, who have given the Colts trouble this season, have done it on the ground where the Indy defense is a bit vulnerable. Keeping a healthy running attack on the field also keeps Peyton Manning on the sidelines.
For the Colts to win: They need to stick with what they do best, which is airing out the ball. It's important to get a healthy mix of the running attack involved, of course. But when push comes to shove the Colts are a pass-first team and there isn't a person on this Earth who can dissect an NFL defense through the air like Manning. If they can protect him and get a few stops on defense, the Colts will be in good shape.
Key factor: The play-making ability of the Saints defense. Guys like Darren Sharper have made a living this season by getting timely interceptions and forcing fumbles. In fact, it was the biggest difference in their victory over the Vikings (just ask Brett Favre). If they can get a little bit of pressure up the middle on Manning and force him to rush some throws (like the Jets were able to do early in the AFC Championship game), that will open the door for Sharper and the defense to make a big play.
Outcome: It's nearly impossible to predict, with any certainty, a game between two teams that are as good as the Colts and Saints have been all season. It almost sounds like a cop-out but, seriously, anything can happen in this game. I expect a high scoring game not all that different than the NFC Championship game the Saints won to get to this point and I wouldn't be shocked if the Super Bowl MVP came from the defensive side of the ball (guys like Darren Sharper, Antoine Bethea come to mind). It's close, but I'll take the underdog Saints, 38-35.