Super Bowl Sunday sure to be a showdown

By Pat Murphy

Get your work done early, stock up on snacks, and gather around a big TV kids, because this is no ordinary Sunday. This is Super Bowl Sunday. At 5:25 CST, over 100 million Americans will tune in to watch the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts take on the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. The Super Bowl is the largest televised American sporting event, and over the years it has become a cultural phenomenon. It seems that everyone watches the game- from the most diehard NFL fans to people who don’t know who’s playing. Super Bowl Sunday has become a de facto national holiday in America. People tune in for an array of different reasons. While there is the obvious intrigue of the game itself, there are those who watch for the over-the-top halftime show (see Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in 2004), and still others who only care about the ridiculous commercials (Budweiser always comes through). According to tvbythenumbers.com, this will be the first year that American viewership tops 100 million, and advertisers are sure to be on their game for the big game. According to Yahoo News, CBS is charging between $2.5-2.8 million for a 30-second commercial.

This year’s game itself provides a good bit of intrigue. The Saints are led by Drew Brees, the top-rated passer in the NFL. After defeating the Minnesota Vikings in overtime in the NFC Championship, (a result that I am still recovering from) the Saints gained their first ever Super Bowl birth. Since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans in 2005, the Saints have become heroes in New Orleans and the feel good story of the NFL.

The Colts, lead by quarterback Peyton Manning, have been among the elite teams in the league every year since 2002. Manning, a four-time league MVP, led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears in 2007.

The Colts and Saints were the last undefeated teams in the league. The Colts opened the year 14-0 before losing their last two games after benching their starters. The Saints started off 13-0 before finishing the year on a three game skid. Each team boasts a high-flying, pass-oriented offense and an opportunistic defense.

The key to victory for both sides will be protecting the quarterback. Manning and Brees are the top signal callers in the NFL and are able to tear any defense apart if given time. The effectiveness of both offensive lines throughout the season was a major reason for success. The Colts gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL (13), and the Saints weren’t far behind with 20. On defense, the Saints had 35 sacks, while the Colts had 34.

A major concern leading up to the game is the health of the Colts’ top pass-rusher, defensive end Dwight Freeney (13.5 sacks, third in NFL), who is questionable with a torn ligament in his right ankle. While ESPN freaks out, I’d readily bet my first child that a pregame cortisone shot will allow him to play.

The Colts have the superior offensive line, and it is virtually impossible to fluster Peyton Manning for more than a series. The Saints rely heavily upon blitz packages to pressure the quarterback, and as anyone who has ever watched Manning play knows, he reads blitzes and audibles better than any quarterback in the league. Expect tight end Dallas Clark to have a big game, as Manning will look to him on blitzes. While Brees, who is known for pinpoint accuracy, was effective against the Vikings, he had several overthrows that nearly cost the Saints. If this trend continues against the Colts, you can expect the Indy defense to capitalize and force interceptions. In the end, Manning and the Colts’ aerial attack will prove too much for the Saints’ defense. I’m predicting the game to be close most of the way, but the Colts will pull away to win 34-24.

So, whether you’re watching for the love of the game, ridiculous commercials, or a Pete Townshend wardrobe malfunction, sit back and enjoy the show. Because this year’s game is being played in Miami, and thanks to Will Smith, we all know that Miami is “the city that keeps the roof blazing.