The Colts have had to outscore their opponents all year long. When the opponent is one dimensional, the Colt D has been able to slow them down. The Jets and the Ravens were both primarily a running team and the Colts slowed the run. Against the Jets the Colts D was hit hard by the passing of Sanchez. The Colts D made him look like anything but a rookie.
The O is the strength of the team. The line is the smartest in the league. Manning is the best QB in the game now and one of the top 5 in the history of the league. Despite having lost 2 key receivers, the team can score in a handful of seconds from anywhere on the field. They rank 2nd in passing. But, the team can’t run a lick. They were dead last in rushing.
The Colts top 2 RBs Addai and Brown averaged 3.8 and 3.6 yards per carry respectively. In the playoffs it has been even worse. Addai is still averaging 3.8 but Brown has fallen to 2.3 per attempt. The Saints are one of the best red zone Ds in the league. Because the Colts can’t run the ball well, it makes the red zone even more dangerous. Because both teams have outstanding Os, there is a lot of pressure on both to score TDs rather than FGs when they get into the scoring zone. The Saints can run a little but the Colts will have to throw the ball to score.
Injuries have taken a toll on the passing game. The latest problem is lone vet WR Wayne has strained a knee in practice. Wayne had 100 catches and is the only vet not on IR. The next 2 WRs on the depth chart are 4th round pick in the 09 draft Collie and second year WR Garcon who had a total of 4 catches in his rookie year. With both being in their first SB, there are bound to be glitters. The TE is now the strength of the passing game. TE Clark also had 100 catches and is a match-up nightmare for any team. He is too fast and mobile for a LB and too big and strong for a S. Covering him will be easier if Wayne is not 100 percent. The Saints will probably single both Collie and Garcon and double Clark if Wayne is not on the field. I think that Wayne will be at least 80% and give the Saint D problems. Clark is the key to the passing game and the O of the Colts for the Super Bowl.
All the media coverage of the D has been on DE Freeney’s ankle. The latest news is that he will try to go but is not expected to be able to contribute much. I doubt he will be able to go. DE Brock will be an adequate replacement for Freeney. He can rush the QB but is not nearly as fast as Freeney.
The key to the Colt D is speed. They are on the whole undersized. Despite this, they were able to contain if not control the running games of both the Ravens and the Jets. The key is for the D line to keep the O line off the LBs. That allows the backers to get to the ball and keep the run to under 4 yards. That is the key to the Colts stopping the run and making the Saints one dimensional.
The other key is the Colts D backfield. Rookie DB Powers has started 12 games and has played well. The question is can he overcome rookie butterflies and perform like it is any regular season game? The Colts’ DBs will struggle with the Saints WRs. WRs Colston and Henderson are both wily vets that eat things tougher than rookie CBs for breakfast. Whichever receiver Powers is on will be Brees’ favorite target. TE Shockey has not been as much of a factor as the team had hoped for but could be in this game. OB Wheeler will be the one most likely to cover Shockey. OB Session will be needed to blitz Brees unless the front 4 can generate enough pressure. Look for 3rd WR Meachem to have a big game as well. He is hard for a starting CB to cover let alone a nickel back.
The Bottom Line:
The game plan for the Colts will be to control the clock with short and medium passes so that Brees and Co. are off the field. The one factor that gives the Colts the edge is Manning. I look for a close game to be won at the end by a drive by Manning for the winning score.
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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday morning at 11. He has also published several novels on
and edits .