Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Super Bowl pick

Chicago vs. Indianapolis -- The more I look at this week's matchup, the more I have a hard time justifying the Colts' status as a seven-point favorite. Much of it probably has to do with the AFC's dominance in recent years, with Indy's victory over New England coming in a game that certainly had the feel of something more than a semifinal round.

But while most coverage of the Bears has focused on the on-again, off-again season of quarterback Rex Grossman, Chicago possesses a deep and talented team and can match up well with the Colts in several areas:
1) The Bears have a pair of talented running backs who can attack Indy's defense. (Did you notice I didn't follow that sentence up with the phrase, "which is soft against the run."?)
2) Chicago has a premier kick returner in Devin Hester, and Colts made New England return man Ellis Hobbs look like the second coming of Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.
3) The Bears have two of the best linebackers in the game, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, each of whom can cover the Colts' tight end Dallas Clark one-on-one. Clark has been Peyton Manning's favorite target through much of the playoffs, particularly late in the game.
4) Indianapolis' cover-two defense can be had in the middle of the field, and the Bears have a great possession receiver in Muhsin Muhammad and a tight end, Desmond Clark, that is also effective on crossing routes.
5) Because of its running game and controlled passing attack (when Grossman is on), Chicago can chew up the clock, which limits Manning's possessions. And that's the best defense against the Colts. While New England moved the ball effectively in the AFC Championship game, they were almost too effective, scoring so quickly that Manning was able to maintain his rhythm when he returned to the field.

So a Bears win wouldn't surprise me at all. Still, I have to go with the Colts. Part of it is just a gut reaction. This seems like Indy's year, just as last year seemed to line up perfectly for Pittsburgh. Even when the Steelers didn't play well in the Super Bowl, they got the breaks when they needed them and Seattle couldn't seem to make a play that would have kept the momentum going. I can see the same thing happening Sunday.

And part of my decision to pick Indy has to do with the quarterbacks. Grossman should be OK. While he was certainly no marksman in the NFC Championship, he made most of the throws he had to make, and he was content to throw the ball away when nothing was there. He didn't force the ball into coverage and he didn't turn it over. I expect a similar performance Sunday.

I expect a great performance from Manning. This is the game he has waited his whole life to play, like Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX. If he was going to wilt under pressure, it would have come in his last game, with the weight of the home crowd around him and his arch-nemesis on the opposite sideline. Instead, Manning took it to another level. I see a game where Grossman surprises everyone with solid play, but he and his team just can't match Manning, who drives his team to a score nearly every time the Colts have the ball.

Finally, I think this is the game where the Bears really miss Tommie Harris and Mike Brown. Seattle wasn't explosive enough and New Orleans not consistent enough to exploit their absences. Indianapolis will be both. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes can pound the middle of the Bears' defense usually occupied by Harris, and Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Clark can stretch it past the center field usually manned so capably by Brown. Lovie Smith is a great defensive mind, but this one goes to his friend and mentor, Tony Dungy.

Colts 33, Bears 27



Anonymous Capital One Witness said...

Excellent analysis, Dave. At the end of the day, I like the Colts, too, but I can certainly envision a result analogous to last year, in which the Colts win, but you end up thinking that the Bears could have, and really should have, won (which is how I ended up feeling about the Seahawks last year). I agree with your conclusion but expect something a bit lower scoring ... 27-23, Colts. But if the Bears can get a double-digit lead at any point, they will not lose. They've been a great team with a lead all year long. And their special-teams superiority alone might just help get them such a lead.

1:56 PM  

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