As a lifelong football fan, I make it a point every year to weigh in with a prediction in Super Bowl XLIV. I see this year's contest as a relatively high-scoring affair, which should not be a shock to those who followed the NFL this season.
While QB Drew Brees will no doubt torch the Indianapolis Colts secondary for some scores, Peyton Manning certainly matches well against the New Orleans Saints QB. Manning is playing as well as he ever has in his career, and there has been a look of determination on his face throughout the playoffs. Cool under pressure, Manning rarely makes mistakes, and he has been able to seemingly will his team to victory in some games that appeared lost this year.
For the Saints to pull out a victory they will have to rely on their defense and special teams to make some game-changing plays. Luckily for the Saints they led the league in defensive touchdowns with eight, and they also generated 39 takeaways during the regular season (second best in the league). The Saints have had a knack for coming up with interceptions and fumble recoveries at key moments, but unfortunately the Colts are an excellent team at protecting the football.
One key factor in the Super Bowl is the ability of Colts DE Dwight Freeney to shake off injuries and play with the skill and intensity he has during the rest of the season. Reports are out that Freeney suffered a torn ligament in his right ankle, and losing one of the NFL's best pass rushers could weaken the Colts and their ability to disrupt the passing game of the Saints.
I am going against the point spread and predicting a Super Bowl victory for the Saints, who will defeat the Colts in a nail-biting 37-34 contest. The Saints will take advantage of a pair of Colts turnovers, and the Saints special teams squad will contribute with a touchdown. I am going with my gut instinct here: statistically this looks like a 37-27 Colts victory, but the Saints always seem to come up with a big play at just the right moment.
The Who Dat Nation will be mighty pleased on Sunday night.
On a side note: I am now 4-0 in predicting the winners in the last four Super Bowls since I started this blog tradition. Here are my predictions and the actual scores:
2009 Prediction: Steelers 27, Cardinals 21 (Actual 27-23 Steelers win)
2008 Prediction: Giants 27, Patriots 24 (Actual 17-14 Giants win)
2007 Prediction: Colts 27, Bears 21 (Actual 29-17 Colts win)
2006 Prediction: Steelers 24, Seahawks 17 (Actual 21-10 Steelers win)
Feel free to leave predictions and homer hate mail in the Comments section.