Early thoughts on the Saints-Colts Super Bowl ...
1. From a football standpoint, the Saints and Colts is the best possible matchup for the Super Bowl. At one point, both teams were 13-0 and bona fide challengers to go 16-0; it's also the first matchup of the top conference seeds since 1993. Two great offenses, huge stars like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the Saints reaching their first Super Bowl. But the NFL playoffs are definitely less interesting without Rex Ryan and Brett Favre. Jets-Vikings would have been more exciting.
2. Both defenses give up a lot of yards. The Colts’ defense ranked 18th in yards allowed, and the Saints ranked 26th. Indy doesn’t care how many yards you rack up, as long as it surrenders field goals instead of touchdowns. And New Orleans makes up for all the yards by creating turnovers (the Saints ranked second in the NFL in takeaways). These two teams could rack up 1,000 yards in a dizzying Super Bowl. Get ready to hear a lot about the red zone and turnovers over the next two weeks.
3. Both teams’ offensive lines are coming off impressive performances. The Saints allowed just one sack against the Vikings’ fearsome defensive front. The Colts yielded two early sacks against the Jets and then figured out the blitz and kept Manning secure the rest of the afternoon. Even though both teams have effective pass rushers, it’s hard to imagine either getting to the quarterback often in south Florida.
4. The Colts lost only five fumbles in the regular season (tied for first in the NFL). The Saints’ strategy of swiping at the football on every tackle might not work, especially if Indy doesn’t run the ball much. Even with Manning at quarterback, New Orleans has a better chance of getting its turnovers off interceptions. Manning threw 16 picks during the regular season.
5. The Saints had a much harder road to the Super Bowl. Indy had to beat two 9-7 teams (Baltimore and New York) to get here. New Orleans dominated the Cardinals, who were good enough to be a play away from winning last year’s Super Bowl, and the talented Vikings. The Colts haven’t faced a real offense in a while. Will they need time to reacclimate?
6. Other than the QBs, don’t try to guess who will star in the big game. The Colts barely used their two most consistent playmakers -- Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark -- against the Jets, turning to Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon instead. And the Saints spread the ball around as much as any team in the NFL.
7. This Super Bowl could have a big impact on the legacy of both quarterbacks. With two rings, Manning would strengthen his case to be considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Meanwhile, Brees could be headed to Canton with a championship on his résumé.
8. Saints defensive end Bobby McCray punished Kurt Warner and Brett Favre on blindside hits over the last two weeks. This week, the officials flagged McCray after he took out Favre on a running play, but the damage was done and Favre was shaky for some time after the hit. The officials will be watching McCray closely in the Super Bowl because they don’t want a quarterback lying motionless in front of the whole world ... especially Peyton Manning.
9. Can you imagine if two markets the size of Indianapolis and New Orleans made the finals in the other major professional sports? That would be a disaster. For the NFL, no problem.
10. We have time to make predictions ... but if you have a really strong feeling already and want to share it, hit the 'Comments' section. The Colts are reportedly 4-point favorites.