There’s no stopping the ‘Mann’: Why the Colts will win the Super Bowl

| Sports Reporter

Quarterback Peyton Manning will lead the Colts into the Super Bowl against the Saints on Sunday. (Mark Cornelison | Lexington Herald-Leader | MCT CAMPUS)

Quarterback Peyton Manning will lead the Colts into the Super Bowl against the Saints on Sunday. (Mark Cornelison | Lexington Herald-Leader | MCT CAMPUS)

The legend

Peyton Manning is unquestionably one of the most intelligent, prepared, clutch and talented quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. This season has been no aberration, as he boasted his NFL-record fourth MVP award of his career with 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Manning spurred an astounding seven come-from-behind victories this season, and at age 33, he shows no signs of slowing down. Peyton won his first Super Bowl three years ago in Miami, and now he returns to the Sunshine State to claim his second. The Saints are confident in their offensive game plan, but will their 26th-ranked secondary be able to keep up with the legendary Peyton Manning? I don’t think so.

The receiving corps

Perennial Pro Bowlers Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark have led one of the most lethal passing attacks in the NFL for the better part of this decade. With them alone, the Saints’ secondary would have trouble containing the pass. But after wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez suffered a season-ending injury in Week One, two youngsters, second-year player Pierre Garçon and rookie Austin Collie, have stepped up, especially in the playoffs. In the AFC Championship against the Jets, the duo combined for 18 receptions for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Pooled with Peyton Manning’s uncanny ability to read defensive schemes, this quartet of receiving threats will be more than the Saints’ secondary can handle on Sunday.

The defensive quickness

Much to America’s pleasure, this year’s Super Bowl is a battle between two of the biggest offensive powerhouses of the modern era. Unlike either of the defenses that Saints quarterback Drew Brees faced in the playoffs, however, the Colts have an undersized but abnormally quick defense, highlighted by linebackers Gary Brackett (99 tackles), and Clint Session (103 tackles). The Colts’ defensive personnel match up favorably against the Saints’ quick offensive weapons like Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush. With Manning on the offensive side of the ball to generate points, the Colts’ defense does not need to be overpowering to win the game. They simply need to negate the Saints’ speed advantage and prevent Brees from taking over the game, which is a very attainable goal.

The X-factor: Robert Mathis

The possible loss of Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney, who amassed 13.5 sacks this season, would be a huge blow to the Colts’ pass rush, but Robert Mathis, the Colts’ other Pro Bowl defensive end (9.5 sacks), leads the rest of an athletic defensive front. Even if Freeney is able to play, he will be limited by his right ankle injury, and Mathis will be relied on heavily to create pass rush. Mathis, who played on both sides of the line during Freeney’s absence in a few games this season, can exploit the matchup against backup left tackle Jermon Bushrod. But if there is not enough pressure to disturb Brees, the Colts’ secondary will be in for a long day.

Prediction:

Colts 34, Saints 31