We know the teams, we know the place and we know the date. Now it’s time for my two-week, two-squad breakdown of the biggest gambling game of the year. Sure, you could wager the Saints will score more points than millions of copies of Michael Jackson’s This is It will sell on DVD, but I find betting straight up on the game easier to predict, and usually more rewarding. So let’s get started, shall we?
This week is the defenses, next week is the offenses. But first, the line. It’s already shifted, so keep watching it. First the Colts had a 4 point edge, now it’s up to 5.5 points. Seems like nfl odds makers have seen the Saints play their last handful of games and are wondering how this team will actually play against a real defense.
Sure, they beat the Vikings, but it’s more like Minnesota gave the game away (Favre, specifically), and then the refs handed the game to the Saints on a horrible pass interference call and then a bad non-reversal of a called catch in overtime. But none of that matters anymore.
Speaking of defenses, if the other half of the game fails to produce a clear leader before the game, it’s a lot less cloudy which club’s defense can handle its own. The Colts gave up about 339 average all-purpose yards per game (about 20 less than the Saints). They held opposing teams to 125 total yards rushing. I predict the Colts rush defense will step it up and be on fire this week (I was right about Bush and Colston last week, wasn’t I?) and hold the Thomas/Bush duo to no touchdowns and fewer than 100 yards combined.
Of course, we all know if the Saints are going to win this game it’s going to be on the back of Brees’ passing game, and this is where the Colts (212 yards allowed during season) need to make a statement. Nothing will take the wind out of the Saints sails early than an early pick sometime in the first quarter.
With Freeney leading the way (don’t kid yourself, his impact will be felt), the Colts defense can do as much as any one offensive player to turn the tide of the big game. I’d feel comfortable betting the Colts to cover if you have confidence in their defense making huge plays and forcing Brees to throw more of those wobbly passes he tossed toward the end of the Vikings game.