Chris Chase: I'm not picking against Peyton Manning(notes). There are plenty of reasons one could pick against him: his mediocre 9-8 career record in the playoffs, the memory of that four-interception game against the Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship, the fact that he didn't play all that well in his last Super Bowl. But this is a legacy-defining game for him and he knows it. (It shouldn't be; win or lose in Super Bowl XLIV, he'll be no better or worse a quarterback.)
No matter his regular season exploits, he's behind Montana and Bradshaw and Brady in terms of titles, the ultimate historical measuring stick. Getting a second ring makes the "Peyton is the greatest ever" argument much more palatable. That's why I can't pick against him tonight. Drew Brees(notes) and the Saints can run with Indy and given the streaky play of these secondaries, no result in this game would surprise me, but this is Peyton's night. (And if the Saints win, I totally meant "Payton's night".) Colts 29, Saints 20.
Doug Farrar: At the beginning of this week, I had the Colts by 3 points, more out of reflex than anything else. But the more I broke down the film and the numbers, the more I started to believe that the Saints really have a chance to do this thing. In general, I think people are underestimating the Saints’ running game, their ability to confuse fast defenses like Indy’s with formations and play action, and their own pass defense with Jabari Greer(notes) and Darren Sharper(notes).
There’s no way to shut down Peyton Manning at this point – he’s playing at a level we may have never seen from a quarterback. But the Saints are one of the few teams capable of doing just enough to slow them down and outscore them in the end. Sean Payton should be on anyone’s short list when it comes to the best coaches in football, and I think he and his estimable staff will have some surprises ready for the favorites. Saints 34, Colts 31.
MJD: When we're dealing with a team that lives and dies on emotion, I worry about a slow start in a big game, especially if the opposing team has the edge in experience. I could see that happening here, and this turning into one of those games where the Saints get down early and then put on the bumrush in the second half. It's been their M. O. more than once this season.
But it won't be the Redskins or Dolphins they'll have to overcome today. It'll be Peyton Manning and his iron grapes. If Manning gets a lead, it's hard to imagine he won't be able to do enough to fight off a furious comeback attempt. Colts 31, Saints 20.