What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Let’s start with my original playoff predictions:
2) Indianapolis Colts
Why They Can Win:
The AFC road to the Super Bowl goes through Indy. The Manning show that once was just a high-powered offense now includes a legitimate defense, and defense is what wins championships.
Why They Can’t Win:
The aforementioned Manning show loves to pick a big-game in which to not show up. With the sole exception of the Super Bowl win over the Bears, The Manning-led Colts have been the NFL’s version of Vinko Bogataj; meaning they get right to the end of the ramp before they collapse.
Odds of Winning: 2.5 to 1
3) New Orleans Saints
Why They Can Win:
Knowing the Saints teams I grew up watching, I never thought I would live long enough to see a guy wearing helmet with a fleur-de-lis on it hoisting a Lombardi Trophy, but it could very well happen. Drew Brees is an MVP-caliber quarterback who has clearly given this team the leader is has needed since Archie Manning in the 70’s. The difference is that Brees has a supporting cast Manning never had. Coupled with the facts that New Orleans has home-field advantage and the Saints don’t lose at home, they have to be the favorite in the NFC.
Why They Can’t Win:
Their defense has serious injury problems which have left them unable to stop the run, but the only team in the NFC that can run the ball are the Cowboys. Another injury problem lies in the broken ribs of RB Pierre Thomas. Brees may be having an MVP season, but this team doesn’t win when Thomas doesn’t carry the ball.
Odds of Winning: 3 to 1
Now that we are down to a head-to-head matchup, there are several categories to analyze.
1) What Vegas Thinks
Anybody who loves to bet knows professional gamblers pay attention to five key categories:
I say this because the line on this game has done something quite unusual. It moved by a full three points within hours of opening. Most houses had the Sunday night opening line favoring Indy by 3.5. But by the following Monday morning, there was such a rush to lock in the Colts at a field goal and a hook, that the line shifted as high as 6 in some places.
Usually such a shift means that the Colts are a prohibitive favorite amongst gamblers, but the Saints control an advantage in 3 of the 5 key categories.
2) The On-the-Field Matchups
Finally, the NFL has a matchup of what were the two best teams throughout the regular season. Vegas’ indecision means The Saints and Colts are very even teams, and this game provides a few key matchups that will determine the outcome.
Peyton Manning vs. the Saints’ Secondary
Peyton Manning may very well be the most extraordinary quarterback the NFL has ever seen. Not only does he throw passes with precision accuracy, he can dissect defenses the way Thomas Edison could invent. While he can struggle against certain blitz packages, he always finds a way to get the ball into his receiver’s hands. The Colts hope, however, that Manning doesn’t fail a thousand times like Edison, or they are probably going to come out of the game empty-handed. Let’s not forget that Manning has a history of choking, something he has yet to do this season…
On the other side, the Saints secondary is one of the most underrated in the NFL. In large part, this is due to safety Darren Sharper. As a team, the Saints racked up 26 interceptions, 9 of which came from Sharper. The Saints also have Tracy Porter (4 INTs), Jabari Greer (2 INTs), Malcolm Jenkins (1 INT), and Roman Harper (102 tackles) in the secondary to help stop Manning.
With all those picks, it is easy to see the Saints secondary is a play-making secondary, not a shutdown secondary. They’ll give up plays, but they might also turn a pick-six on you. This is the philosophy defensive coordinator Greg Williams has pushed all year, and one that will not work on Sunday against Peyton Manning. Just ask Rex Ryan.
Drew Brees vs. Colts Secondary
Short of Chris Johnson, if anybody else had a claim on the MVP as much as Peyton, it was Brees. He threw for 4388 yards, 34 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions, all while completing over 70 percent of his passes. Simply put, the Colts secondary is vulnerable. The only player to fear is safety Antoine Bethea, who has recorded 4 interceptions and 95 tackles. Cornerbacks Jacob Lacey and Jerraud Powers are solid young players. But they are just that, young and inexperienced. This means Kelvin Hayden will have to step up big for the Colts, as he will have to make plays when Brees throws his way. The Saints have too much talent for the young Colts secondary. Receivers Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore could have a field day.
Reggie Bush vs. Colts Linebackers/Special Teams
Once, Reggie Bush was proclaimed a bust. But now, he is winning respect with his playoff performances. When his game is on, there are not very many players who can light up the scoreboard like he can. He can burn you out of the backfield, on screen passes, downfield passes, or even on punt returns. The Colts have two very solid linebackers in Gary Brackett and Clint Session. These two have to contain Reggie Bush. There is no other alternative; he’s the guy they absolutely have to stop. Contain him, or the game is over. As far as Bush returning punts goes, the Colts have to get a good day’s work out of punter Pat McAfee. If he kicks around Bush and cosistently pins him inside the 20, the Colts may just avoid the big play that the Saints thrive on.
Saints Offensive Line vs. Colts Defensive Line
Despite what Vikings’ fans would like to belive, the Colts have the best defensive line in the NFL. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have combined for 23 sacks this season, making them a combo the Saints should fear. However, the Saints offensive line is very good, as they held the Viking pass-rushers to just one sack from Ray Edwards. The key matchups to watch are right tackle Jonathan Stinchcomb vs. Robert Mathis and left tackle Jermon Bushrod vs. Dwight Freeney.
Advantage: Saints Offensive Line
3) A Comparison of the Cities
Let’s be honest, there really isn’t much to compare. Indianapolis is representative of middle America, menaing it is clean, relatively safe, and utterly boring. Granted, this is a city that has dumped a lot of money into investing in itself, and it shows. This is why Indy is hosting the Final Four this year, and a Super Bowl in 2012.
Then there’s New Orleans. Even before the hurricane, it was a corrupt, filthy rathole. Even looking at a map, New Orleans is in the perfect place to be America’s rectum. Every piece of shit that ends up in a river between the Appalachians and the Rockies ends up in New Orleans and accumulates there. People would have you believing that America feels sorry for this city after the hurricane. Bullshit. America loves New Orleans in much the same way they loved Corky from “Life Goes On.” In other words, you feel bad about making fun of retards, but you are still going to laugh when they fall down a flight of stairs.
The only people who “love” New Orleans are the ones who have never had to live there. Even the Saints know this. After all, they take cash payments from the city and the state of about $15 million a year for simply not leaving. Of course, New Orleans could just give it up and let the team move to Los Angeles. Honestly, pro football in California makes more long-term sense than it does in Louisiana. But the idea of taking away Corky’s one precious toy is too much for America to bear.