Saints figure to get physical but most favor Colts

The two-week Super Bowl hype-fest mercifully has come to an end. The top two seeds, the Indianapolis Colts from the AFC and New Orleans Saints from the NFC, will settle the issue today in Miami.

The Saints didn’t play their best in the NFC Championship Game, but they still found a way to win, which is the calling card of a high-quality team.

The Colts, while disposing of Baltimore and the New York Jets, were pressed in both postseason games.

After early money on Indianapolis surfaced around Las Vegas, the line has settled in with the Colts as 5-point favorites, and the total is around 57.

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney’s injured right ankle has been a major pregame talking point. He’ll likely play on a limited basis, and the impact he’ll have in the game is anyone’s guess.

Indianapolis won a number of tight games throughout the season, a further testament to quarterback Peyton Manning’s leadership in pressure situations.

Many perceive the Saints to be a finesse team that has to take care of business through the air. Don’t be fooled. New Orleans can play a physical brand of football. As much as Minnesota gave away a Super Bowl appearance, the Saints created many of those opportunities that punched their ticket.

In this matchup, the points look attractive, and New Orleans might be able to secure a title in its first appearance on the NFL’s biggest stage. Will this year’s edition be a classic or a dud? We’ll know soon enough. I’m anticipating an entertaining event.

Teams with Super Bowl experience have fared extremely well over the years, which is an advantage for the Colts. I think the Saints might have gotten the jittery kinks out of their system against the Vikings.

Manning and Drew Brees should put on a show, with the San Diego Chargers castoff having the last laugh. I’ll go with New Orleans, 27-24, and under the total is my strongest opinion.

Everyone seems to be expecting an aerial show, but the Saints could find success on the ground, and if Freeney is a nonfactor, Manning might opt to keep Brees off the field with lengthy, time-consuming drives.

Let’s take a trip around town for opinions from various sports book directors and one oddsmaker:

Mike Colbert, M Resort, Saints 28-24

The Indianapolis defense might get exposed. The Colts got the best of the Jets and Ravens, but those offenses pale in comparison to what they will face today. The Saints will be able to move the ball at will.

Jay Kornegay, Las Vegas Hilton, Colts 34-21

Two great offenses will be on the field, but the Colts’ defense ultimately might be the difference-maker. Other than the game against Arizona, which had a defense that couldn’t stop Bo Peep, New Orleans has struggled offensively down the stretch.

Art Manteris, Station Casinos, Colts 38-35

The injury to Freeney and issues at cornerback for the Colts should open up the passing game for the Saints. If Brees gets comfortable in the pocket, he will find his weapons. If it’s the high-scoring, close game I’m anticipating, it would be difficult to bet against Manning finding a way to get the win.

Tony Miller, Golden Nugget, Colts 34-31

This game comes down to the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, and the edge has to go to Manning. The Saints offense keeps them in the hunt, but I’ll say Manning drives the Colts down the field and they win on a field goal on the final play.

Jay Rood, MGM Mirage, Colts 24-21

I look for a lower-scoring game than most people. These two defensive units aren’t getting the respect they deserve. I’m inclined to believe the Colts, as they have all season, will find a way to get it done.

Bob Scucci, Boyd Gaming, Colts 27-21

Manning has looked as impressive as any quarterback has looked heading into a Super Bowl. I’m especially impressed with the way he figured out a great Jets defense in the AFC Championship Game. The Saints might experience first-half jitters. Eventually, they’ll settle down, but it might come back to haunt them by game’s end.

Ken White, Las Vegas Sports Consultants, Colts 35-31

If this game is played on a fast track, I look forward to plenty of scoring. Freeney’s ankle injury leads me to believe Brees will have many opportunities to swing for the fence. But, in the end, the Colts’ Super Bowl experience of 2007 ultimately will help them prevail.

Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at Listen to the LVSC oddsmakers on Sportsbook Radio, weekdays at 3 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM) and Sirius 98.

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