*The Indianapolis pass rush has not been strength all year long, and now with Dwight Freeney’s status seriously up in the air, it’s even worse. Drew Brees is going to have time to throw the ball and neither quarterback is going to be stopped in this one by coverage alone.
*If both Brees and Manning have big games, make a default to who’s more likely to get running game support. While both teams have won with their quarterbacks all year long, New Orleans has shown a greater capacity to get it done on the ground as well.
*New Orleans can get to Manning—at minimum they have a better chance of doing so than Indy does of pressuring Brees. Gregg Williams’ defense has shown the ability to get sacks all year long, and they showcased their aggressive style against Brett Favre in the NFC championship game. Let’s bear in mind that with this game on grass, it will be harder than normal for opposing offenses to run quick slants to beat the blitzes. Not drastically harder, but just enough to create an edge in an evenly matched game. I believe the Saints are better suited to play on grass than is Indy.
*Indy’s just too dependent on Peyton. New Orleans is more complete. That’s ultimately what it all boils down too.
There are good arguments in the other direction. Indianapolis has been the more consistent team, and there’s no chance they’ll no-show. With New Orleans there does have to be at least be some trepidation that the team who nearly lost at Washington will show up. With the Colts, what you see is what you get, week-in and week-out. If we had to pick which team was more likely to advance through a three-round bracket before it started, I’d take Indy as the safe choice. But now that we’re down to one game, I’m more interested in the potential ceiling of each team. New Orleans’ is higher and I believe they will reach it.
Overall, I don’t think this game will be as high-scoring as the experts say, unless it comes from turnovers setting up easy points. This is two dome offenses moving outdoors and more important, teams don’t reach this level without playing some defense too. Let’s call this one 24-20 for the boys from the Bayou.