Teams: Indianapolis Colts (16-2) vs. New Ahlins Saints (15-3) Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Kickoff: 5:25 CST
Danny Sheridan's line: Colts by 5
QB Regular Season Stats:
Colts: Peyton Manning: 303-571, 4.500 yards, 33 Tds, 16 Ints, 68.8% completion, 99.9 passer rating
Saints: Drew Brees: 363-514, 4,388 yards, 34 Tds, 11 ints, 70.6%, 109.6 rating
Joseph Addai: 219-828 3.8 yards per carry, 10 tds
Donald Brown: 78-281, 3.6, 3 tds
Pierre Thomas: 147-793, 5.4, 6 tds
Mike Bell 172-654, 3.8, 5 tds
Reggie Bush: 70-390, 5.6, 5 tds
Reggie Wayne: 100- 1,264, 10 tds
Dallas Clark: 100-1106, 10 tds
Austin Collie 60-676, 7 tds
Addai: 51-336, 3 tds
Pierre Garcon: 47-765, 4 tds
Marques Colston: 70-1074, 9 tds
Devery Henderson: 51-804, 2 tds
Robert Meachem: 45-722, 9 tds
Antoine Bethea: 4
Jacon Lacey: 3, one for 35 td
Darren Sharper: 9, 99 td
Tracy Porter: 4, 54 td
Dwight Freeney: 13 1/2
Robert Mathis: 9 1/2
Will Smith: 13
Matt Stover: 33/33 PAT, 9/11 FGS
Garrett Hartley: 10/11 PAT, 9/11 FGs
Dwight Freeney's ankle injury has made this even more interesting. It's a great matchup of the best two quarterbacks in the game today. Manning may be the greatest of all time by the time he retires and that may be a long time the way he loves the game. Manning is 33 and about to get a huge contract that will keep him with Colts for a long time.
Brees is the ultimate competitor, too. At 6'0", he was written off by a lot of pro scouts, but has proved with his competitive drive and love for the game, he is an elite qb. He's also got a great arm, a quick release and knows how to operate in the pocket. He and Manning are good friends and have a lot of respect for each other.
Looks to be a high-scoring affair with Brees and Manning going at it throwing to their talented receiving corps.
I like Indy's wrs a little better than the Saints and think they could be the difference. Collie and Garcon were huge in the conference championship victory over the Jets, and Wayne and Clark are two of the best in the business; probably the best. Saints dropped some passes against the Vikings. Colston has been good for the most part, but he can drop one or two a game. Henderson is the guy I like the best at wideout for the Saints. He's a burner who makes big plays in the passing game. Meachem is very good, too and catches tds. Jeremy Shockey needs to step up in this game.
The Colts' defense is probably a little better when at full strength, but with Freeney hobbling and former Auburn player Jarraud Powers hurting at db, this could open up some things for the Saints in their passing game. Still Robert Mathis is a great pass rusher and the Colts defensive backfield is pretty good, but without Powers at full strength, could be vulnerable.
Saints running back Pierre Thomas could be an important player running the ball which will open it up for Brees and Company. Thomas is a very fine player. The New Orleans defense has to get both good pressure on Manning and force some turnovers; something they've been good at all season, turnovers that is.
The Saints have the edge in special teams. Thomas Morstead is a terrific punter and Garrett Hartley probably has a lot of confidence from his game-winning kick against Vikings. Courtney Roby is an excellent kick returner.
Who knows what you'll get from Reggie Bush? He can help you and he can really hurt you. An 80-yard punt return is possible, and so is a lost fumble deep in his team's own territory that costs them a td. So what Reggie Bush does may be important both ways. He was a liability against the Vikings.
The Saints defense, to me, is the key to the game. Drew Brees is going to put points on the board. The question is can the defense somehow keep Peyton under control, get pressure on him from their front four and with blitzes from the corner. They put a pretty good hurtin' on Favre so they're capable. Pressure on Manning could lead to ints. Jonathan Vilma is a great lb who was huge against the Vikings in getting an interception and a fumble recovery. Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle are solid at outside backers. Tracy Porter is just as big as he had the key int against Brett Favre at the end of regulation and caused a fumble that Vilma recovered deep in Saints' territory with the Vikings. Darren Sharper is a ball-hawk with nine ints and he can break it when he makes the pick.
But the Saints front four is critical against a great Colts' offensive line that has given up only 13 sacks all year. Center Jeff Saturday and company are almost immovable. They can dominate in pass blocking. The Saints HAVE to get pressure on Manning or he'll eat'em up.
I like the Saints so much that I hate picking against them; they've been so good for the city of New Orleans in their recovery from Katrina. But Manning and his wrs are just too good. The Colts will outscore the Saints in a shootout. Should be a fun game. Saints have a shot. They have a lot of playmakers, a great quarterback, and can get turnovers.But, I've got to be objective, and I see Peyton having a big day.
Prediction: Colts 35, Saints 28