By Sunday night we will have a new champion in the NFL crowned, as the Bears and Colts duel for the top spot in the league Sunday in Miami. The storyline for this Super Bowl mostly revolves around the Colts offense vs the Bears defense, and can Chicago hold down the Colts enough and score enough to get it done. The Colts remain a 7-point favorite, despite being a lower seed and having to have played one more game than the Bears. Thursday I gave you two articles stating valid reasons why each team would walk away a winner if things went their way. Today, I give you my final thoughts on game, as well as my final score prediction for the showdown. Here we go:
Indianapolis at Chicago: Super Bowl XLI – Let’s start with the basics. The Bears offense in my opinion is going to need to score at least 21 points to get this thing done. Can they do that? Sure, but will they is another question. The Bears I thought played well on offense in their two playoff games, both in running the football and taking a few downfield shots with Rex Grossman. The running game should be the key, as I still think the Colts can be run on despite holding down three AFC teams on their way to the Super Bowl. The combo of Thomas Jones and Cederic Benson need to put up about 125 yards to make things more manageable for Grossman. As for Rex, he needs to take what the Colts D gives him early on, and not try to force too much. There will be plenty of time if the running game gets going to take some shots down the field. The Colts are good against the pass, allowing about 160 a game, and with Bob Sanders back and about 100 percent, Grossman has to be careful not to key in on one receiver or float too many balls down the field, as the Colts can and will make you pay for your mistakes. Use Jones and Benson a lot to soften things up, then take some down the field shots.
The Bears were second in the league with 427 points, so we know they can score. What they can also do though is fall into lapses in games where Grossman makes bad throws and the running game gets shut down. Chicago has to fight through that Sunday and not allow the Colts to jump on them for an early lead or allow them to get up by 10 or more. If that happens, the Bears are going to lose. I don’t think they have it to comeback on the Colts unless its a 3 or 7 point deficit. Anything bigger than that and the game will be on Grossman’s shoulders, and that is exactly what the Colts want to see. It would also take away the Bears running game, which has been effective in their two playoff wins.
As for the Colts, their offense was up and down in their three playoff wins, scoring as many as 38 points in the AFC title game win over New England, to putting up five field goals in a 15-6 win at Baltimore in the divisional game. They scored the exact same amount of points as the Bears during the season, so usually scoring is not a problem. What could be a problem is how the Colts respond playing on the road with so much focus on them. Sure they came though in the AFC divisional game vs the Ravens, but other than that game, they have really struggled away from the cozy RCA Dome. They lost their last four road games of the regular season, and scored just 72 points (18 per game) in those four losses. Add in the 15 they put up in Baltimore, and the Colts have scored just 87 points (17.4 per game) in their last five games outside Indy. That is not enough to get it done here.
Indy will need to mix it up against the Bears defense that has also had some ups and downs this season. The Bears are not the same defense that was devouring teams in the first few weeks of the season, but they are still good and can make plays and cause havoc if you let them. The big thing that Peyton Manning and the Colts have to do is protect the football and avoid negative plays. They simply cannot allow the Bears to build momentum with giving them turnovers and having Chicago only needing 20-30 yards for touchdowns. That is what really killed the Saints in the NFC title game in Chicago.
I think the Colts will try to open up the game throwing the ball and picking up the pace. It’s one way that they can get the Bears defense off guard, as well as try to set the tempo. If they can get some early success on offense and score some early points, I think their chances of winning will increase greatly. One other way to slow the Bears down is to throw a lot of play action at them, as well as run draw plays with Joseph Addai and Dominick Rhodes. Both those players can be shifty enough to do that, and they can complement Manning’s passing game with some yards on the ground.
One advantage that the Bears have going in is special teams. They have what could be the wild card in this matchup and that being Devin Hester. The speedy return man should be able to have success against a Colts cover unit that allowed over 37 yards a return on kickoffs in the AFC title game. Of course we also know that Hester can provide great field position on punt returns as well, so the Colts have to be careful not to over pursue on coverage. Make a mistake in coverage and Hester is going to make you pay, and you can bet that the Colts are well aware of that watching film the last two weeks.
Despite the Colts having one of the great kickers of all-time in Adam Vinatieri, the kicking games to me are pretty even because of the great season Bears kicker Robbie Gould has had. Gould don’t forget kicked the game-winner in overtime against the Seahawks in the Divisional game, as well as a game-winner in mid-December at home vs the Buccaneers. I don’t think either of these top notch guys are going to miss late in the game if it comes down to that, so I think its kind of a mute point to focus too much on the kickers.
So I guess that only leaves us with a final – “what’s going to happen?” Here’s how it goes in my opinion. The Bears control the tempo with their running game, make some plays in the passing game, and run some surprises on defense with coordinator Ron Rivera putting together a game plan that should hold Manning and company in check enough. I can see a back and forth affair that is going to come down to the final quarter, but I continue with my early thought that the Bears defense will overcome the Colts offense, and the Bears offense will be able to put up enough points to walk out of Miami with their second Super Bowl title.
Chicago 28 Indianapolis 20