Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl XLI...Please, Please Let There Be Some Rain. A Lot of Rain.

I can see all the logical reasons for picking the Colts to win XLI: Peyton Manning, who is 15-5 against a clearly inferior NFC the last three season, is throwing to two Pro Bowl wide receivers with a thousand yard rusher in the backfield and a defense that has been destroying opposing running games throughout the playoffs and coming up with big plays in the secondary. Plus, Manning has had two weeks to dissect game film of every game the Bears have played since the Colts waxed them three years ago. Not to mention the heartwarming story of Peyton finally overcoming his long-time nemesis and then topping it off by finally putting a ring on his finger; Peyton blowing this chance at a glorious coronation would be like the '80 Olympic hockey team upsetting the Russians and then blowing it against Finland.

Sounds pretty convincing, but I'm not sold. For a few reasons.

The Colts do have an explosive offense, but the Bears have a better defense, better special teams and a better running game. They are better in every aspect except for the passing game, and I don't think that the Bears passing game is as bad as every one makes it out to be.

Really, the passing game does some things exceptionally well, like hit the long ball. And I got Grossman's back. I think he's got some serious cajones. He's a play maker. (How can you slurp Brett Favre so hard and completely dismiss Grossman? Just because Favre has three MVPs and Grossman handed in two sub-2.0 passer ratings this season? C'mon!) And I don't think he'd like anything more than to shut up every stupid reporter who's asked him and his teammates and his coaches about pulling him halfway through the game.

Seriously, has that ever happened before? Has a QB who started every game - 18 games! - ever been asked if he was going to get pulled in the Super Bowl? Trent Dilfer perhaps? Maybe Stan Humphries? Has this ever, ever happened? Most sports writers are idiots; disagreeing with them on principle is a fairly intelligent thing to do. I'm going with Grossman out of spite and just because I think he's good, even though he screwed my fantasy team for a crucial two-week stretch and handed in two games with QB ratings under 2.

His counterpart, the immortal Peyton Manning, basically has a ring on his finger already. But I don't trust Peyton on the big stage quite yet. Peyton doesn't strike me as the type of guy who succeeds at something the first time he does it. He fails, works his ass off, fails again, works even harder and then eventually figures everything out and succeeds.

He never beat Florida at Tennessee, but something tells me if he would have had a few more years, he would have found a way to own them. He showed flashes of brilliance early in his career, but it took him a while to master the own-the-game-at-the-line-of-scrimmage routine. It took him forever to get past the Pats but he finally did with a brilliant second half in the AFC title game. Where is the precedent for him ever, ever succeeding the first time around? Peyton will win at least one Super Bowl in his career, but the first time around? I'd be surprised. Not stunned, but surprised.

And it isn't like Peyton is having a stellar post-season either. He was so-so against the Chiefs and then did not play well at all during the Ravens game. No touchdowns. Ed Reed owned him. If the Ravens offense wasn't as slow as the turtles from those Comcast commercials, they would have lost. What is a more realistic representation of the Super Bowl vs. the Bears: going against the Ravens or an old and depleted Pats D? And his first half against the Pats wasn't even anything to write home about either. He did have a career-defining second half, but that's been it. Taken as a whole, he's played poorly the entire post season (Grossman's stats have been much, much better).

Its ironic, I think, that Peyton finally dispatched the Patriots but it is their ghost that can still haunt them.

The AFC title game exposed the Colts' kick covering ability (well, maybe it didn't expose it, per se - I wasn't really paying that close attention to the Colts special teams throughout the season, but it certainly was obvious after that game). Their lackluster tackling and coverage gave the Pats prime field position time and time again; if the Colts cover even one of those kicks mildly adequately, that game isn't nearly as interesting as it ended up being.

The Colts special teams did everything in its power to let the Pats stay in the game and the Pats had the 78-year-old Troy Brown returning kicks. Devin Hester, even if he doesn't break any game-chaning runs, is going to force the Colts to completely alter their kicking game (any direct kick to Hester is a full-blown mistake; this should not happen once). The Bears should own the field position game because they just can't chance kicking it to Hester; he's more than capable of pulling a Desmond Howard. Own field position and then run the ball, and you keep Peyton and the Colts offense off the field for huge stretches of time.

The Pats also showed that the Colts receivers absolutely detest being played physically. The Bears D is going to rough them up and those receivers don't exactly have a history of handling that kind of contact well. I mean, they couldn't find the end zone against the Ravens and the Bears D is better than the Ravens D, at least in my opinion. Throw in the fact that there's a good chance it rains Sunday night - how great would a Super Bowl in the rain be? - and the Bears D has the edge over the Colts O.

And that Colts rushing defense...I mean, yea, they've been lights out in the playoffs, but they sucked - sucked - in the regular season. They were on pace to break the record for most yards allowed per game - ever. They were historically bad. What do you think is a more accurate representation - three games in the playoffs or 16 throughout the course of the regular season? Throw in how long the Super Bowl is - its going to be over four hours; its an absolute grind which just drains players - and that d-line is going to wear down. Even if the Bears don't have success right away, if they stick with it, they will have their way by the end.

So there's a million reasons why the Colts will lose. Why will the Bears win?

The prevailing line of thought seems to be that Grossman has to have himself a ball game for the Bears to win; he can't go out and be the reason the Bears lose. Which is true, I think, but to a degree. I think Sexy can turn it over twice - but just twice - and the Bears can still win, provided those TO's don't come in horrific times or places: run back for scores or in their own territory.

The Bears will run on the Colts. Please believe. They will run and run and run, and then Grossman will hit some big plays down field. The defense will force two, maybe three turnovers - a tipped pass that is picked off, a sack for a fumble, stripping a wide receiver of the ball - and they will capitalize on them. The special teams will make a play or two. And when the Colts get down, they will be done. There will be no comeback against this Bears D like two weeks ago against New England. Did you see Peyton on the sidelines against the Pats? He looked like he was going to throw up; not exactly the stoic picture of confidence.

So: the Bears get up early, run and run, hit a few big, timely plays, Hester and the special teams make a few big plays, and the Chicago D takes advantage of a suddenly one-dimensional, panicking offense. MVP? Thomas Jones.

I said it at the beginning of the season, I'll say it now: Bears 34, Colts 17.

Plus, Merril Hodge took the Colts and I'm pretty sure he is wrong about everything.

(Oh and if the Colts go buck wild and win 42-3, forget I said anything.)

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