Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The NFL Blog: 2009 Season Awards

2009-2010 NFL Horse Collar Awards

So this is the first annual edition of the NFL Horse Collar Awards. These awards are similar to my baseball and college football awards. The all-conference teams are pretty much based on which players had the best season this year. The All-Horse Collar teams (my version of All-Pro) are based in part on which players had the best season but also on which player I think is currently the best at each position. Just like with my college award teams I picked the best offensive line instead of picking individual players at each position on the line because you really have to watch film in order to know what you’re talking about in that regard. You can look at rushing totals, protection numbers, penalties, 3rd and 4th down conversions, etc. in order to make a judgment on who has the best offensive line. You need to watch the coach’s reel to know which tackle had the best year. Also, it should be noted that I do take postseason results into consideration. I understand giving out regular season awards in some sports but in the NFL I have always thought that awards should be given out after the playoffs because those are the most important games. It really didn’t have much of an effect on my picks anyway other than in a few specific instances which I will discuss. Along with the normal awards, I also came up with some non-traditional awards just for fun.

Conference Awards

All-AFC Team

QB: Phillip Rivers
RB: Chris Johnson
FB: Le’Ron McClain
WR: Andre Johnson
WR: Reggie Wayne
TE: Dallas Clark
OL: Tennessee Titans
DE: Aaron Schobel
DE: Dwight Freeney
DT: Tony Brown
DT: Randy Starks
OLB: Elvis Dumervil
OLB: Lamar Woodley
ILB/MLB: David Harris
CB: Jairus Byrd
CB: Darrelle Revis
SS: Brandon Meriweather
FS: Antoine Bethea
K: Sebastian Janikowski
P: Dustin Colquitt
KR: Josh Cribbs
PR: Wes Welker

All-NFC Team

QB: Drew Brees
RB: Steven Jackson
FB: Leonard Weaver
WR: Larry Fitzgerald
WR: Miles Austin
TE: Vernon Davis
OL: New Orleans Saints
DE: Jared Allen
DE: Will Smith
DT: Jonathan Babineaux
DT: Jay Ratliff
OLB: DeMarcus Ware
MLB: Jon Benson
ILB: Patrick Willis
CB: Charles Woodson
CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
SS: Adrian Wilson
FS: Darren Sharper
K: Ryan Longwell
P: Mat McBriar
KR: Percy Harvin
PR: DeSean Jackson

AFC Offensive Player of the Year: Chris Johnson
AFC Defensive Player of the Year: Darrelle Revis
AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year: Austin Collie
AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year: Brian Cushing
AFC Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick

NFC Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees
NFC Defensive Player of the Year: Charles Woodson
NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year: Percy Harvin
NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year: Clay Matthews
NFC Coach of the Year: Mike Smith

1st Team All-Horse Collar

QB: Drew Brees
RB: Chris Johnson
FB: Leonard Weaver
WR: Larry Fitzgerald
WR: Andre Johnson
TE: Antonio Gates
OL: Tennessee Titans
DE: Elvis Dumervil
DT: Tony Brown
DT: Jay Ratliff
DE: Jared Allen
OLB: DeMarcus Ware
ILB: Patrick Willis
MLB: Jon Benson
CB: Darrelle Revis
CB: Charles Woodson
SS: Adrian Wilson
FS: Darren Sharper
K: Olindo Mare
P: Dustin Colquitt
KR: Josh Cribbs
PR: DeSean Jackson

2nd Team All-Horse Collar

QB: Peyton Manning
RB: Adrian Peterson
FB: Le’Ron McClain
WR: Randy Moss
WR: Wes Welker
TE: Vernon Davis
OL: New Orleans Saints
DE: Dwight Freeney
DT: Kelly Gregg
DT: Kyle Williams
DE: Will Smith
OLB: LaMarr Woodley
ILB: Ray Lewis
MLB: David Harris
CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
CB: Asante Samuel
SS: Brandon Meriweather
FS: Nick Collins
K: Sebastian Janikowski
P: Mat McBriar
KR: Percy Harvin
PR: Patrick Crayton

1. Drew Brees
2. Peyton Manning
3. Brett Favre

NFL Offensive Player of the Year
1. Chris Johnson
2. Drew Brees
3. Phillip Rivers

NFL Defensive Player of the Year
1. Charles Woodson
2. Darrelle Revis
3. Jared Allen

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Percy Harvin
2. Austin Collie
3. LeSean McCoy

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Brian Cushing
2. Clay Matthews
3. Jairus Byrd

NFL Coach of the Year
1. Mike Smith
2. Bill Belichick
3. Tom Cable

NFL Front Office of the Year
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Comeback Player of the Year
1. Vince Young
2. Tom Brady
3. Michael Vick

NFL Postseason MVP
1. Drew Brees
2. Tracy Porter
3. Garrett Hartley

Most Overrated Player
1. Chad Johnson
2. Mark Sanchez
3. Darrelle Revis/Peyton Manning/Drew Brees

Biggest Surprise (Team): Cincinnati Bengals
Biggest Disappointment (Team): New York Giants
Biggest Surprise (Player): Matt Schaub
Biggest Disappointment (Player): Albert Haynesworth/Jay Cutler
Biggest “What the Fuck???” Performance: Jerome Harrison in week 15
NFL Least Valuable Player: JaMarcus Russell

Best Game of the Year
14. Detroit over Cleveland, 38-7, week 11
13. Chicago over Minnesota, 36-30 (OT), week 16
12. Dallas over New Orleans, 21-14, 24-17, week 15
11. Denver over Cincinnati, 12-7, week 1
10. Minnesota over San Francisco, 27-24, week 3
9. Minnesota over Baltimore, 33-31, week 6
8. New England over Buffalo, 25-24, week 1
7. Tennessee over Arizona, 20-17, week 12
6. Pittsburgh over Green Bay, 37-36, week 15
5. New Orleans over Washington, 33-30 (OT), week 13
4. New Orleans over Indianapolis, 31-17, Super Bowl XLIV
3. Arizona over Green Bay, 51-45 (OT), Wild Card Round
2. Indianapolis over New England, 35-34, week 10
1. New Orleans over Minnesota, 31-28 (OT), NFC Championship Game

NFL Worst Coach of the Year
1. Jim Mora Jr.
2. Jim Zorn
3. Raheem Morris

NFL Worst Front Office of the Year
1. Chicago Bears
2. Washington Redskins
3. Oakland Raiders

Worst Loss of the Year
1. Jets over Colts, 29-15, week 16
2. Raiders over Steelers, 27-24, week 13
3. Browns over Steelers, 13-6, week 14
4. Raiders over Eagles, 13-9, week 6
5. Chiefs over Steelers, 27-24 (OT), week 11
6. Panthers over Giants, 41-9, week 16
7. Lions over Redskins, 19-14, week 3
8. Patriots over Titans, 59-0, week 5
9. Bucs over Saints, 20-17 (OT), week 16
10. Bucs over Seahawks, 24-7, week 15

Best Moment of the Year
1. Cutler’s Opening Night Debacle
2. Falcons Achieve Consecutive Winning Seasons
3. Vince Young Leads Tennessee over Arizona in week 12

Worst Moment of the Year
1. Wes Welker Blows Out a Knee
2. Colts Forfeit in Week 16
3. Favre vs. Green Bay, Part I
4. Favre vs. Green Bay, Part II
5. Favre Throws Another Head scratcher
6. Manning Fails
7. Rackers Chokes

Biggest Douche of the Year
13. Terrell Owens
12. Todd Haley
11. Dre Bly
10. Dan Snyder
9. Tom Benson
8. Jim Mora Jr.
7. Chad Johnson
6. Brandon Marshall
5. Rex Ryan
4. Jim Caldwell
3. Tony Dungy
2. Jay Cutler
1. Keith Brooking

Monday, February 8, 2010

The NFL Blog: 2009 Betting Lines Season Review

Last Week: Vs. Spread (1-0); Straight Up (0-1).
Playoffs: Vs. Spread (6-5); Straight Up (7-4)
Season: Vs. Spread (126-134-6); Straight Up (176-90).

Playoffs Review: Once again I was a bit disappointed in my playoff performance. I’m glad I was over .500 ATS and straight up again but I still would like to go better than 7-4 picking winners. And this year I didn’t pick the winner of the Super Bowl correctly so that’s a major downer.

Season Review: I can’t say that I’m thrilled with my final records but I’m not exactly ashamed. A .485 percentage ATS isn’t terrible. I still think I can do better than a .662 winning percentage straight up but I’m getting better. I was over .500 ATS and straight up in the playoffs again. I was actually a bit surprised when I went back and discovered that I was only over .500 ATS in 6 weeks during the regular season and I was under .500 ATS in 8 weeks. I went .500 ATS in 3 weeks. During the playoffs I was only over .500 ATS in 1 week but I was never under .500 ATS in the playoffs. I went .500 ATS in 3 of 4 weeks during the playoffs. During the regular season I was over .500 straight up in 15 of 17 weeks; under .500 straight up in 1 week; and I went .500 straight up in 1 week. During the playoffs I was over .500 straight up in 2 weeks; under .500 straight up in 1 week; and at .500 straight up 1 week.

I was shocked and appalled when I realized that I was never over .500 ATS in consecutive weeks during the regular season. My longest streak of weeks under .500 ATS was 3. I was .500 ATS or better in 3 straight weeks at one point. During one stretch I was at .500 or worse for 6 consecutive weeks. My longest stretch without a winning record straight up was 1 week. I was over .500 straight up for 8 consecutive weeks at one point. My best record ATS during the season was 9-5 in week 5; my worst record ATS during the season was 3-10 in week 9. I was 14-2 straight up twice during the season (week 12 and week 17). My worst record straight up was 6-7 in week 9. My best week overall was week 12 when I was 10-6 ATS and 14-2 straight up. My worst week overall was easily week 9 when I was 3-10 ATS and 6-7 straight up. My strangest week was probably week 4 when I was just 6-8 ATS but 11-3 straight up.

To be honest, I really never got on a good roll ATS this season. I never had consecutive weeks over .500 ATS and I had very bad weeks during the beginning of the season, the middle part of the season, and towards the end of the season. But if you’re looking for the point of the season that killed my chances of finishing .500 or better ATS it would have to be during the middle of the season, specifically weeks 6 through 11. During that 6 week stretch I was never over .500, including a 3 week stretch under .500 from week 8 through week 10. In weeks 8 and 9 I had my worst 2 weeks of the season in back to back weeks, going 4-8 and then 3-10.

I was slightly worse this year than I was last year picking ATS. I was 126-134-6 ATS this year (.485) after finishing at exactly .500 last year with a record of 128-128-11. I was a little better straight up this season, going 176-90 (.662) compared to 167-97-1 (.633) last year. I was slightly worse ATS during the playoffs this season (6-5 this year; 7-4 last year) and slightly better straight up during the playoffs (7-4 this year; 6-5 last year).

Monday, February 1, 2010

The NFL Blog: 2009 Super Bowl Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (1-1); Straight Up (2-0).
Season: Vs. Spread (125-134-6); Straight Up (176-89).

Conference Championship Games Review: The games were entertaining, if not completely satisfying. On the AFC side, I still would have liked to see the Colts at least try to finish the regular season and the postseason undefeated. On the NFC side, I think the Saints deserved to win because they took advantage of Minnesota’s mistakes, but I’m not sure the best team won. I’m glad I picked the winner of both games correctly this year. As for the spread, I haven’t been better than .500 all year so I don’t know why anything would change in the playoffs.

Super Bowl Preview: If the game is actually played at some point I just hope I’m still alive and have all of my wits about me when it happens. At the very least, I hope the old folk’s home where I’m living has the game on T.V. I think we’ll have a very exciting and competitive game. I’m rooting for the Colts because I don’t want to see the Saints win a Super Bowl before the Falcons do.

Super Bowl XLIV

New Orleans (+5) vs. Indianapolis
Pick: Colts win but Saints beat the spread
Records and Trends: The Saints are now 15-3 overall this season and 9-9 against the spread. The Colts are 16-2 overall and 12-5-1 ATS. New Orleans has outscored opponents by an average score of 32.56 to 21.28 for a +11.28 average scoring differential. The Colts have outscored opponents by an average score of 25.89 to 18.17 for an average margin of victory of +7.72.

The Saints won their first 13 games before losing their final 3 to finish the regular season 13-3. The Saints did not have the #1 seed in the NFC wrapped up until the final week of the regular season so they were putting full effort into their first 16 games. After finishing the season on a 3 game losing skid, the Saints beat the Cardinals and Vikings to reach the Super Bowl. They are just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games.

The Colts won their first 14 games before losing their final 2 to finish the year 14-2. The Colts had the #1 seed in the AFC wrapped up after week 15 and they promptly rested their starters in weeks 16 and 17, leading to their first 2 losses of the season. The Colts ended the regular season with back to back losses but they beat the Ravens and Jets in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. The Colts have not been beaten this year when their starters played the entire game.

Both teams will be playing their first game on a neutral field this Sunday. For what it’s worth, the Saints were 7-1 away from home this season (4-4 ATS), outscoring opponents 32.0-21.1 on average for a +10.9 average scoring margin. The Colts were 7-1 away from home this season (7-1 ATS), outscoring opponents 28.1-18.9 on average for a +9.2 average scoring differential. Both teams were undefeated on the road in games in which they played their starters for the entire game.

The Saints will be underdogs for just the 2nd time this season. Their only other game as an underdog came in week 17 when they were expected to rest their starters. They were 10 point underdogs at Carolina and lost by 13. The Colts will be favorites for the 17th time in 19 games. They are 15-1 straight up as favorites and 11-4-1 ATS as favorites. Their only loss straight up as a favorite came in week 16 when they pulled their starters in the 2nd half against the Jets.

This will be a pair of dome/turf teams playing outdoors, on grass. The Colts are 5-1 outdoors this season (5-1 ATS) and 6-0 on grass (6-0 ATS). The only loss straight up or ATS for the Colts outdoors came in week 17 when they rested their starters against the Bills. The Saints are 5-1 outdoors this season (4-2 ATS) and 3-1 on grass (3-1 ATS). The only loss straight up for the Saints outdoors or on grass was in week 17 when they rested all of their starters against the Panthers.

New Orleans Playoff Review

Divisional Round

The Saints opened the playoffs hosing the Cardinals as 7 point favorites in the Divisional Playoffs. New Orleans won by 31 points, 45-14, and it probably could have been worse. New Orleans dominated the game. After falling down 7-0 on the first play of the game, the Saints scored 21 straight and led 21-7 at the end of 1. It was 21-14 midway through the 2nd quarter, but the Saints scored 2 TD in the final 7 minutes of the half to take a 35-14 lead into halftime. New Orleans shutout the Cards 10-0 in the 3rd to enter the 4th quarter leading 45-14. The 4th quarter was scoreless. New Orleans scored the final 24 points of the game, outscoring the Cards 45-7 after Arizona’s quick score to open the game.

New Orleans had 12 more 1st downs than Arizona (27-15), 8 more rushing 1st downs (10-2), and held the Cards to just 1 for 8 on 3rd down, while the Saints went 7 for 13 on 3rd down conversions. The Saints out-gained Arizona by 59 yards (418-359), out-rushing the Cards by 70 (171-101). The Saints did not turn the ball over and they had 2 takeaways, recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass. New Orleans had the game’s only defensive or special teams touchdown. The Saints had the ball for 13 minutes more than the Cardinals.

Perhaps the biggest key to New Orleans’ victory over the Cards was the play of Kurt Warner. Warner was not on his game. It’s possible that Warner was worn out from a full season of play and the back and forth game against the Packers in the Wild Card Round that went into overtime. Also, New Orleans was able to put pressure on Warner and a key hit in the first half left Warner dazed the rest of the way. Warner fumbled a snap, took a sack, threw 2 interceptions (1 was wiped out due to a penalty), and was hit several times.

After going ahead on a huge play to open the game, the Cardinals fell into a deep hole with a string of catastrophic plays. After giving up a 70 yard TD run on the first play of the game, the Saints shutdown the run, giving up just 31 rushing yards the rest of the way. The Saints forced Warner to settle for short throws underneath the coverage. They limited Larry Fitzgerald to just 6 catches for 77 yards and a long of 16 yards.

The Saints had a huge edge in special teams in all areas: field goals; kickoffs; kick returns; punts; and punt returns. Reggie Bush was huge for the Saints as a returner, running back, and receiver. New Orleans rushed for 171 yards, picking up 10 first downs on the ground. Offensively, the Saints were 7 for 13 on 3rd down. Drew Brees was never sacked and New Orleans never fumbled the ball.

Turnovers were huge. Arizona may have been tired following their long game with the Packers, while the Saints looked rested. The Saints actually missed a few chances to make the score even worse. Arizona lost Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to an injury and they definitely missed Anquan Boldin in this game.

NFC Championship Game

The Saints were 4 point favorites at home against the Vikings in the Championship Game and they ended up winning by just 3 points in OT, 31-28. In many ways, the Saints were outplayed by the Vikings, but in other ways New Orleans played a better game. The game was back and forth throughout. Minnesota scored first but New Orleans came right back to tie it and the score was 14-14 at the half. The Saints took their first lead early in the 3rd quarter but the Vikings tied it and the score was 21-21 going to the 4th. New Orleans went up 7 again early in the 4th but the Vikes tied it at 28 with just under 5 minutes to play. The Vikings had a chance to win the game in regulation but they were never able to attempt a game winning FG and it went to overtime with the score still 28-28. The Saints won the coin toss and drove down for a FG to win it, 31-28.

Statistically the Saints were pretty much dominated in the game. The Vikings had twice as many 1st downs (31-15) and out-gained the Saints by 218 yards (475-257). The Saints were just 3 for 12 on 3rd down conversions (1 for 1 on 4th down) while the Vikings went 7 for 12. Minnesota out-rushed the Saints by 97 yards (165-68), averaging 4.6 yards per rush while holding the Saints to 3.0 yards per carry. The Vikings had 121 more yards passing (310-189). Minnesota had the games only sack and held the ball for 9 minutes more than the Saints. New Orleans had 56 more penalty yards.

The key to the game was Minnesota mistakes. The Vikings committed 5 turnovers and went just 4 for 6 in the red zone. The Saints committed only 1 turnover and went 3 for 3 in the red zone. New Orleans was really fortunate not to have more turnovers but the Vikings could also have committed even more turnovers. The fumbles by the Vikes made things harder and killed drives. Brett Favre’s 2 picks were also costly. While the Vikings were penalized less than the Saints, the 12-men in the huddle penalty on the final drive of regulation, and a pass interference penalty on the Saints’ OT drive were both humongous.
The Saints won the special teams match-up again, holding the advantage in field goals, kick returns, punting, and kickoffs.

The Saints struggled to convert even on 3rd down and manageable. Reggie Bush was very well contained. Pierre Thomas was effective at times running the ball. Also, the Saints did a very good job containing Jarred Allen. On the other side, New Orleans shutdown Percy Harvin in the return game, as a receiver, and as a runner. For Minnesota, Favre was harassed and battered constantly.

Indianapolis Playoff Review

Divisional Round

The Colts opened the playoffs as 6.5 point favorites at home against the Ravens. They won easily, 20-3. The Colts took a 3-0 lead less than 5 minutes into the game but the Ravens came back to tie it late in the 1st quarter. Indy finally got into the end zone with less than 2 minutes left in the half, taking a 10-3. The Colts scored again just 3 seconds before halftime to go up 17-3 and basically put the game away. After a scoreless 3rd quarter, the Colts made it 20-3 early in the 4th and they went on to win by the same score.

The Colts didn’t exactly dominate the game but they were in control throughout. Indy had 10 more 1st downs than Baltimore (22-12) and held the ball for 8 more minutes. The Colts turned it over only once and turned the Ravens over 4 times. Baltimore was charged with 39 more penalty yards and the Colts went 2 for 3 in the red zone while holding the Ravens to 0 for 2. Indy was also 1 for 1 on 4th down while the Ravens were 0 for 2.

Indy’s 14-0 run at the end of the 1st half was absolutely gigantic. The Colts rattled Joe Flacco and the defense held in the red zone and on 3rd and 4th down. Baltimore committed key penalties and key turnovers. The Colts played good special teams and went on long drives, eating up the clock. Finally, Ed Reed made 2 picks that were negated by penalties and a fumble, and this was obviously humongous.

AFC Championship Game

The Colts were 8 point favorites at home against the upstart Jets and wound up winning by 13, 30-17. For a while it looked like the Jets might just pull off another stunning upset but the Colts eventually took over the game and put New York to bed. After a scoreless 1st quarter, the Colts took a 3-0 lead on the 1st play of the 2nd. The Jets responded by scoring a TD to take their first lead on the first play of their ensuing possession. Indy cut the lead to 7-6 midway through the 2nd but the Jets scored another TD to make it 14-6 with less than 5 minutes to play in the half. After forcing a fumble, the Jets were in position to go up big on the Colts but they settled for a field goal to make it 17-6 with 2:11 left before halftime. 58 seconds later, the Colts finally got into the end zone, cutting the score to 17-13 at intermission. Midway through the 3rd quarter the Colts scored again to retake the lead, 20-17. Midway through the 4th the Colts put the game away with another TD. Indy tacked on a FG with 2:30 left and went on to win, 30-17. Following New York’s FG that made it 17-6 Jets, the Colts outscored New York 24-0 the rest of the way, shutting out the Jets 17-0 in the 2nd half.

The Colts had 10 more 1st downs than the Jets (27-17) and out-gained them by 58 yards. Indy somehow managed to win the rushing battle, holding the Jets to 86 yards on the ground while rushing for 101. The Colts had just 5 yards in penalties, while the Jets were hit with 46 yards in penalties.

Peyton was hit a few times early but he was well protected for the most part and eventually he figured out the Jets defense. The Colts got some semblance of a ground game for one of the few times all season. Pierre Garcon had a huge game for the Colts. Also, Matt Stover out-kicked Jay Feely. On the other side, the Jets were crushed when Shonn Greene was limited due to injury. From then on the rushing game was stymied. The Jets did get some big plays and a surprisingly good game in the passing department. Some key penalties really hurt the Jets. Also, holding the Jets out of the end zone was key for the Colts. The Jets had a chance because of Indy settling early and because of some big plays and a key Indy fumble. But the game turned when the Jets settled for a FG and the Colts scored to cut the deficit to 4 at halftime.

Super Bowl Team Previews:

New Orleans Saints

Offensively, the Saints were the top team in the NFL this season. Led by the most accurate passer in the game today in Drew Brees, the Saints led the NFL in total offense and scoring offense. Brees has a pack of talented pass catchers at his disposal, and the Saints finished 4th in passing yards, tied 1st in pass touchdowns, 2nd in QB rating, and 1st in completion percentage. Brees was given excellent protection by a very solid offensive line that yielded just 20 sacks this season, 4th best in the NFL. None of this was a surprise. It was New Orleans’ ability to balance the passing attack with an effective running game that really brought the Saints offense to another level. The Saints were 6th in the NFL in rushing this season and tied for 3rd in rushing TD’s. New Orleans was 6th in the NFL in 3rd down %.

On defense, the Saints relied on pressure, keeping opponents out of the end zone, and most of all on turnovers. Overall, the numbers are not pretty. The Saints finished 25th in total defense and 20th in scoring defense. The Saints were 21st in rush defense and 26th against the pass. However, New Orleans was one of the best teams in the NFL at forcing turnovers. The Saints intercepted 26 passes, 3rd best in the NFL, and forced 39 total turnovers, 2nd most in the NFL. The Saints recorded 35 sacks and held opponents to a 57.5 % completion percentage, tied 4th in the NFL. The New Orleans defense held opposing QB’s to the 3rd worst passer rating in the NFL this season. New Orleans allowed only 15 passing TD’s, 5th best in the NFL.

The New Orleans special teams game has some strengths and weaknesses. The Saints punt and kick coverage teams were among the worst in the NFL this season, but they did get a lot of kickoff touch backs and punt return fair catches. The Saints field goal kicking has been decent but long kicks are a question mark. Although Reggie Bush can be explosive, the Saints were not a good punt return team this year. The kick return team, however, was one of the best in the NFL.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts marched right on this season, as Peyton Manning ended all argument as to who the best QB in the NFL is at this point. Some inexperienced receivers joined Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne this season and by the end of the year it was perhaps the best group of pass catchers in the NFL. The Colts were 9th in total offense and 7th in scoring offense this season. The passing attack was deadly as always, as the Colts finished 2nd in the NFL in passing, 4th in completion percentage, 9th in QB rating, tied 1st in pass TD’s, 1st in passing 1st Downs. The offensive line and Manning’s intelligence and poise combined to make Indy the most difficult team in the NFL to record a sack against. Despite at times being very one-dimensional, the Colts allowed a league low 13 sacks this season. This was not a balanced attack. The Colts finished dead last in the NFL in rushing and rushing touchdowns. Still, the Colts were #1 in 3rd down conversion percentage and lost just 5 fumbles all season.

On defense, the Colts were a “bend but don’t break” unit as usual. They relied on getting pressure on the QB with their defensive ends, tackling well, and keeping the opposition out of the end zone. The Colts were 18th in total defense this season, finishing 24th against the run, and 14th against the pass. Remarkably, the Colts were 8th in scoring defense this season, allowing just over 19 points per game. The Colts recorded 34 sacks and forced 26 turnovers. On the down side, the Colts were 31st in the NFL defensively on 3rd down, giving up 1st downs 45 % of the time.

The Colts were solid overall on special teams this season. They were average punting and covering punts. Though Matt Stover has taken over for Adam Vinatieri as place kicker, the Colts have remained solid on field goals. The Colts were terrible covering kickoffs but they did get plenty of touchbacks. The Colts are not going to scare anyone returning kicks or punts.

Team Comparisons

Passing Offense
Advantage: Draw
Comments: These are the two premier passing attacks in the NFL. During the regular season, the Saints had the edge in completion percentage and rating. The Colts had the edge in passing yards per game, completions of 20+ yards, completions of 40+ yards, passing 1st downs, and sacks allowed. The Saints threw 7 fewer interceptions. Both teams threw 34 TD’s. One thing to consider is that the Colts took off the last 6 quarters of the season, while the Saints did not rest players until the final week.

Rushing Offense
Advantage: New Orleans (significantly)
Comments: The Saints finished 6th in the NFL in rushing yards this season, averaging 131.6 yards per game on the ground. The Colts averaged 80.9 rushing yards per game in 2009, dead last in the NFL. The Saints scored 21 rushing TD’s (3rd best in the NFL), while the Colts scored 15. The Saints were tied 4th in rushing 1st downs; the Colts were last in that category. The Saints averaged 4.5 yards per rush, 7th in the NFL; the Colts averaged just 3.5 yards per rush, 30th in the NFL. The Saints had 14 rushes for 20+ yards; the Colts had only 6 such rushes.

Overall Offense
Advantage: Draw
Comments: The Saints led the NFL in total offense and scoring offense while the Colts finished 9th in yards per game and 7th in scoring. The Saints were 2nd in 1st downs; the Colts were 5th. But the Colts were the #1 offense in the NFL on 3rd down, while the Saints were 6th. The Colts also had 4 fewer turnovers and were #2 in fewest offensive penalty yards. Most importantly, the Colts have Peyton Manning.

Passing Defense
Advantage: Saints
Comments: During the regular season, the Colts had the edge in passing yards allowed but that was about it. The Saints had the edge in opponents completion percentage, opponents QB rating, passing TD’s allowed, and passing 1st downs allowed. The Colts allowed fewer completions of 20+ yards and 40+ yards but the Saints had 10 more INT and had 1 more sack.

Rush Defense
Advantage: Colts
Comments: The Saints allowed less rushing yards than the Colts but Indy allowed less yards per attempt, less rushing TD’s, and less rushing 1st downs. The Colts also gave up fewer runs of 20+ yards and 40+ yards.

Overall Defense
Advantage: Draw
Comments: While the Colts had the edge in scoring defense and total defense, the Saints ability to force turnovers is hard to ignore. New Orleans recorded 39 takeaways and scored 8 defensive touchdowns. The sack numbers are about equal. New Orleans was much better getting off the field on 3rd down.

Special Teams
Advantage: Draw
Comments: Both teams are vulnerable to big returns. The Saints kick return game is strong. I give the Colts a slight edge in place kicking. For the Saints, Reggie Bush is both a weapon and a liability as a punt returner.

Super Bowl Forecast

Depending on the weather, I think this will be a fairly high scoring game. I think it will be close throughout and I think it could go down to the wire. The Colts should be focused for this game and I don’t believe they will be overconfident. At the same time, I don’t think the Saints will get much motivation from being the underdog. I think there’s a chance that the Saints will lose some amount of intensity by the time this game finally gets underway. This is the greatest season in New Orleans sports history, regardless of what happens on Sunday. For the Colts, everything is riding on this game. If Indy wins, the season will be a success and they will be able to justify not going for the perfect season. If the Colts lose, the season will be a total failure. There’s no question that the Colts are the more desperate team. The Saints may be a bit nervous early on and the Colts need to take advantage of any New Orleans mistakes.

Offensively, I think the Colts will have a lot of success. I believe Manning will carve up the New Orleans defense and the Colts will convert 3rd downs and string together long drives. I also think the Colts will get a few big plays and I don’t see the Saints touching Manning. However, I think the Saints will be able to force at least 1 turnover. The running game for the Colts will not be a factor in my opinion.

I also think the Saints will have a good game on offense as well. They should be able to convert 3rd downs against the Indy defense and get some big plays. I don’t see Indy putting much pressure on Brees, especially with Dwight Freeny out or severely limited by injury. But I do think the Colts will recover a fumble or stop the Saints on a 4th down.

The Saints should have the edge in the return game but I think the Colts will end up having a major edge in the kicking game. As always, penalties, turnovers, and performance in the red zone should be huge. In the end, I think the Colts will commit more mistakes and control the ball longer. New Orleans will make some big plays but it won’t be enough to win it. I like the Colts to win it, 31-28.