Now that the Super Bowl is just 9 days away, I'd like to take this time to say a few things. So here goes..
I really, really will miss watching this guy throw the football. Kurt Warner has been a class act in the NFL for over a decade now, and so many players would do very well by following this man's lead. He has set so many NFL records or put himself in the conversation as top 5 or top 10 QB's of all time. The man has the 3 best SB performances by a QB EVER. That alone speaks volumes as to the quality of player he truly was. I absolutely wish him the best of luck in his retirement, and hope that we see him on the sidelines as some kind of coach.
This guy when its all said and done, is only outdone by 3 QB's in the last 20 years. John Elway, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. When I say outdone, I mean the overall career, not just postseason play.
If I didn't have Manning, I'd want this guy under center. Good bye to one of the truly best players, both on and off the field, I've ever had the privilege to watch.
If that was the last we saw of Brett Favre, then I tip my cap to you sir. You played the absolute best year of your career at 40, and were literally 1 play away from possibly going to the Super Bowl.
However, I can't pin this loss on the old Gunslinger. Sure, he threw that ill-advised last minute interception, but his teammates were the sole reason that this game was lost in the first place. Between the moronic 12 man in the huddle penalty, to the variety of idiots who couldn't hold on to the ball, this game was lost long before Brett threw that final pass. The Vikings absolutely were a great story this year, and they have alot to look forward to next year. Even without Favre, this team will be considered a front runner for the NFC next year.
If I'm the head coach though, I'd be doing two things:
1.) Finding a way to get another veteran QB onto my team (ala Donovan McNabb) because what he has there ain't going to get it done.
2.) I'd be stealing a page out of that 90's classic, The Program, and making AP carry the freaking football around all the time and making my defense try to take it from him. Stupid? Perhaps, but I can tell you this: You cannot be the best RB in football and constantly fumble the ball as he has. Something like 25 turnovers in 3 seasons is horrendous for a RB. Tiki Barber anyone????
The New York Jets came to play in a season where they weren't expected to even make the playoffs. After starting 3-0, they fell to earth behind the mistakes of a rookie QB and never really recovered until late in the year. This was a team that outplayed expectations and once they made it to the playoffs, put the gas pedal to the floor.
Yes, I'm a Colts fan and was thrilled to watch the Jets lose. However, I have to respect the way that Rex Ryan had his team ready to play and how well they came to play. The Colts could have easily let this one go, but they played their style of game and won handily. This is a team to watch out for next year, especially if they can improve their passing game. While Sanchez was a game manager much of the season, he really came to play in the AFC title game.
Are the Jets enough to finally push the Patriots out of the top spot and back into obscurity? This is one Colts fan who absolutely hopes so.
This was the dream matchup a few years ago, as the Colts were favorites in the AFC for 2007 and the Saints were favored to repeat their run of 2006. Ironically, they met in the first game of the year and the Colts destroyed the Saints. Unfortunately, the year ended rather poorly for both teams. The Colts lost Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney to injuries, and despite finishing with a bye week for the playoffs, came out flat and struggled against the Chargers in a loss. The Saints meanwhile, never fully recovered from the beating the Colts handed them on opening day and finished 8-8 for the year. Drew Brees had a great year for an otherwise forgettable one with the Saints.
Roughly 3 years later, these two teams meet in the Super Bowl for the biggest prize of them all: bragging rights as World Champion and the Lombardi Trophy.
How they got here:
New Orleans Saints - 13-3 record, #1 seed in the NFC (won 13 straight games)
The Saints were the darlings of the NFL this year. If that sounds odd, it's because it is. This is the Ain'ts, the paper bagged up fans from New Orleans. However, that's changed since Hurricane Katrina. New faces have restored this franchise to respectability. Guys like Drew Brees, Darren Sharper, and even their coach, Sean Payton, have led the charge in changing this franchise into a team the city could be behind. Even losing the SB, this team still wins for its city. The Saints are the Aint's no longer. They play arena league style offense, they play opportunistic defense, and they aren't afraid of being unconventional.
Indianapolis Colts - 14-2, #1 seed in the AFC (won 14 straight games, set various NFL season/decade records)
Ironically, the Saints stole a page out of the 2005 Colts playbook. Fast start, long winning streak, and a defense that fed on turnovers. So, it really comes as no surprise that the original team to do that, one upped the Saints during the regular season. This was a team that finally won the way past SB teams had won like the Patriots and the Steelers. They played defense, they won ugly, and when the game was on the line, this team did not fold. In years past, we couldn't get off the field on defense. This year, team's couldn't keep us from getting on the field.
The Colts managed to win 7 games where they trailed in the 4th quarter, won 23 straight regular season games, won 115 regular season games this past decade. These are all NFL records. Peyton Manning won his 2nd string of back to back MVPs, taking over first place in the MVP list having 4 total. We listened all year to how this year the Colts would take a step back, yet they were the hunters all year. This was the team that you had to play 60 minutes against. To many of us, the fact the Colts got no respect all year hurt. Ironically, that chip on our shoulders must have shown up on the field, as we're in the SB.
I've spent much of the last week reading, listening, and watching various commentary/blogs and I can't tell you how silly some of it is. Some of you already know, some of you also have contributed to it.
This game has the makings of possibly being the best game the SB has seen in many years. However, my gut tells me that this game will turn into a one sided affair. Who do I have picked to win? Rather easily, it's the Colts. Barring some major injury or catastrophic meltdown by the Colts, I just don't see any way the Colts lose. So rather than simply say that, I'll elaborate further.
The Saints defense:
This was a unit that allowed the Vikings to put up almost 500 yards of total offense, while still turning the ball over a whopping 5 times. The Vikings kept shooting themselves in the foot with mental mistakes at bad times. The absolutely worst part? The Vikings had a chance to kick a FG for the win with less than a minute to go in the game. True, the Saints played tough all night, but only half the turnovers were forced. The rest were very poorly executed plays by the Vikings. Any one of them could have altered the game.
Now, the Saints have to play the ultimate offensive challenge against the league's premier QB. This is a guy who just torched, and I mean torched, the best defense in the league. That defense held Brees to under 200 yards passing and zero touchdowns. Now the Saints have to find a way to stop him, and honestly, they can't.
The Saints have allowed teams to put up yards all year. In at least 4 seperate games, guys have thrown for over 300 yards against them. Granted, the Saints have won those games, but those teams all continued to turn the ball over. The Eagles Kevin Kolb threw for almost 500 yards against the Saints in Week 2. Seriously? How do you let a guy come off the bench and torch your defense like that?
The Saints offense:
Absolutely struggled against the Vikings defense all night. In fact, Drew Brees had one of his lowest passing production games of the year. Yes, he threw 3 TD's, but these were all short passes that the WR/RB's made after the catch plays.
Drew Brees is a guy who likes to roll out and throw screen passes, likes to back up in the pocket. Well, that plays right into the pass rush of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts like to go for the throat, and the ball. Brees is a well known ball fumbler and the Colts will capitalize on that. Worse off, is that the Saints must now play a very fast defense that plays virtually the same style of defense as the Vikings. A fantastic pass rush, a good core of LB'ers, and a quality secondary. The lone difference may be the speed in which the Colts defense plays.
I just don't really feel like the Saints can live on the big play, which is going to keep the scoring at a more realistic level. Sure, the Colts will allow points, but generally you don't get to go deep very often.
Now, many of you will realize I'm not offering a break down of the Colts side of things. Truthfully, the Colts will not struggle against the team like they did against the Ravens or Jets. Those were teams that were about ball control and defense. This team is about finesse and getting turnovers. I just don't like Brees chances against Manning. The last 2 times Manning has played the Saints, he's thrown for like 11 TD's and about 800 yards.
I've seen people comment on how the Saints have done better against common opponents than the Colts have. Well, to some degree, that is very true. What alot of people overlook is the games where the Saints struggled.
Buffalo Bills - The Colts rested starters after about 8 min of game play. Drew Brees failed to throw a TD or record 200 yards passing.
New York Jets - The Colts yanked their starters with about 7 min to go in the 3rd quarter and up by 5 pts. They absolutely torched them in the AFC Champ. game. Brees again failed to throw a single TD and the Saints defense scored points off of 2 Sanchez turnovers.
New England Patriots - The Colts play this team every year, and while we struggled early, we torched them for about 25pts straight. For us, this is practically a division game. Meanwhile, the Saints played a team that already had lost starters during and after playing the Colts. Still, they destroyed the Patriots quite well.
Miami Dolphins - Both teams really struggled against this team, and it was late game heroics by both offenses that kept both the win streak alive, and put points on the board. Both wins were not pretty.
Arizona Cardinals - The Colts beat this team by 20pts when it was fully healthy. The Saints beat this team by 30pts after knocking out their QB.
There is however, one team that really, and I mean really, illustrates my view point of why the Saints will really struggle with the Colts. And that game is...
St. Louis Rams - The Colts went on the road and torched this team by a score of 42-6. They didn't even allow the Rams to score a TD. The Saints? They were in a dogfight to the end with a team who had lost more players than they had playing. They allowed the Rams to put up 20+ points against a very healthy Saints defense.
The old mantra is that on Any Given Sunday, any team can win or lose. The difference is how bad you want it. Which team puts it on the line more and finishes, will win the day. I just do not see the Saints being able to beat the Colts in style of game the Colts themselves are the very best at.
Colts 42 - Saints 24