This year's update to the playoff drive stats show that the football gods may have been on Peyton Manning's side this time. Also: Cam Newton and Alex Smith enter the mix, and why we should be comparing Andrew Luck to Dan Marino.
07 Feb 2010
HEY! The Super Bowl in-game discussion thread is right here! Everybody enjoy the game.
Audibles compiled by Doug Farrar
Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can). On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
In this case, a pre-Super Bowl conversation was launched by the exhaustive game preview that Aaron and Bill put together, and we thought we'd share it with you. Of course, we'll be back Monday morning with the regular Super Bowl Audibles. This is just our version of the pregame show.
Ned Macey: Rationally, I agree with the Super Bowl preview that it is odd that everybody seems to think the Colts are going to win. Emotionally, as a Colts fan, however, I share the consensus opinion and am not particularly worried about this game.
One explanation, which admittedly is a massive cherry-pick, is that the Colts simply haven't lost to this type of opponent in a long time. Since 2004, the only time a healthy Peyton Manning lost to a 4-3 team from outside his division was Week 8 of the 2004 season against Kansas City. I can't remember who was running 3-4 or 4-3 each year back to 2004, but it is roughly 25-30 straight wins.
That's obviously not fair because they've lost five divisional games to 4-3 teams in that time, and it throws out their four losses to 4-3 teams while Manning's knee healed up last year (two were division opponents, so seven total 4-3 losses since Week 8 of 2004).
Still, the point is that the Colts have simply not lost this sort of game in a long time, so it is hard for me to create a feeling for how it will happen. For instance I would have been very concerned against San Diego in the AFC Championship or against Dallas (beat up on IND in 2006) in the SB. The best I can do to get myself back to normal is remember the Chargers game in 2007 without Dwight Freeney, when Philip Rivers and Billy F'ing Volek moved the ball at will.
Tim Gerheim: I would think this would be like any other Colts game, where all you have to do to make yourself feel 100% confident is to say "peytonmanningpeytonmanningpeytonmanning" to yourself.
Aaron Schatz: I really do think a lot depends on Freeney's condition, but I feel very confident in saying that either team can win.
Sean McCormick: I feel pretty confident that the Colts are going to win easily. Maybe it's just because I remember the last time they played (the Saints! the Colts! should be two great offenses!...and then it was 41-10), or the Saints were stuttering and wheezing for the last six weeks minus the Arizona game. Mostly it's because I think Peyton Manning at this point is pretty much invincible and will put so much pressure on the other team's offense that they'll eventually crack, even when they're a good offense. I know our numbers like the Saints by a bit, but then again, the Bears had the better DVOA when they went up against Indy, too...
David Gardner: As a Gators fan, let me please warn you not to underestimate the impact of losing your starting right defensive end.
Sean McCormick: I don't think you need to be a Gators fan. Colts fans remember their hobbled defensive line giving Billy Volek of all people the time he needed to knock them out of the playoffs. In this instance, though, I think the Colts still have more than enough.
Tim Gerheim: Nobody needs to be a Gators fan.
Mike Kurtz: Some part of me thinks that DVOA doesn't fully account for how much better the AFC is than the NFC.
Bill Barnwell: DVOA IS BEYOND REPROACH.
I think the stuttering and wheezing has a lot to do with defensive back injuries, especially Greer. That secondary being healthy means a lot. I think the Colts win because Manning will pick apart Randall Gay and Jonathan Vilma.
Doug Farrar: The Saints aren't a strict 4-3 team per se -- not in the way that the Vikings or Colts are. They'll run some three-man fronts with nickel and dime sets, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them put some 5-2-4 out there with the outside linebackers reading all the way. I think Gregg Williams will treat Manning more like he treated Warner than how he went after Favre -- there were lots of fake blitzes against Warner. More exploding sliders than fastballs.
One thing I noticed the Saints doing in the NFC Championship was the six-man front thing with Zach Strief as the extra tackle. It was a nice formation change-up for Payton. The two-play sequence that led to New Orleans' second touchdown was particularly intruiging. First-and-10 from the Minnesota 21, Strief went in motion left to right, Saints ran a zone slide right, and everyone bit on it. Pierre Thomas cut back to the left for 12. First-and-goal from the 9, Strief stayed on the right side in no-huddle. Brees went boot action right, and the defense bit hard on the run action left. Deep safety and all. Brees rolled out, hit Devery Henderson on the post corner, and Benny Sapp was one-on-one with him because the safety was out of the picture. If there's one thing I think people (in general, not us) are underestimating, it's Payton's ability to spot mismatches and exploit them with scripts and motion and formations. Yes, the Colts' defense is ridiculously fast, but there are answers for that.
I also think the Saints will run fairly often, and effectively, which will set up the aerial playbook in the way that Payton wants it. They wouldn't win the TOP battle and still lose the game like the Dolphins did, because the Saints can pretty much score at will just like the Colts. I guess I'll go against the grain and pick the Saints by 4. I was feeling the Colts winning it earlier in the week, but the more I look at things, the more I think the Saints will pull this thing out in the end.
Vince Verhei: It does seem to me that the perception of Peyton Manning in the past two weeks has gone from "best quarterback in the league, perhaps best quarterback ever" to "God in a blue jersey." People asking how Drew Brees and the Saints can keep up with him ... Brees has more touchdowns in EACH of the past two years than Manning! He's also very, very good! Maybe, right now, even better!
And it's funniest of all to me because it's not like this was Peyton's best year. Yes, he set a personal high for passing yards, but his rate stats are right in line with his career averages. He was fifth in passing DVOA -- his lowest ranking since 2002. If anything, he had an off year.
Aaron Schatz: Agreed. To me the issue is not, "If you think the Saints have a good chance, you are underestimating Peyton Manning." The issue is, "If you DON'T think the Saints have a good chance, you are underestimating Drew Brees and Sean Payton." I don't think ANYBODY imagines a scenario in which the Saints win by shutting down Manning. They win by outscoring Manning, and perhaps getting what the Pats got in the snow in the 2004 AFC title game -- a good game from Manning where he did nothing wrong but his RECEIVERS couldn't hold onto the ball.
Vince Verhei: I like the Colts to win, but just barely -- if this was best-of-seven like the World Series, I'd be stunned if it didn't go six or seven games. The money line has the Saints at +160 and the Colts at -180. That's ridiculous.
Mike Tanier: That is a very enticing money line. If I am not snowed in, maybe I will run to Delaware...
Robert Weintraub: This buildup reminds me of the preamble to the 1997 (calendar-wise, 1998) game in San Diego, Packers-Broncos. Brett Favre was an unstoppable throwing machine, seeking his second title, and were solid favorites to take out John Elway Elway, who of course always lost the big one. It's not a precise analogy, the Saints never won, period, not just the big game. But after the Pack spanked the 49ers (at Candlestick, if I'm not mistaken), no one thought the team from the AFC could win, even though the year before the Broncos were 13-3 and the #1 seed.
Of course, the Broncos beat the Packers in an entertaining, wide-open affair (I was lucky enough to be on the field). I would hardly be shocked if the Saints won in similar fashion. One note--all week the analysis has scoffed at the idea of the Colts turning it over. I seem to recall Manning throwing two picks to Ed Reed in the division round (one was overturned by penalty, one fumbled back on the runback), and Joseph Addai fumbling against the Jets. Is it really so difficult to conjure the Saints taking it away once or twice?
29 comments, Last at 08 Feb 2010, 2:38pm by tgt2