Sunday, February 04, 2007

SBXLI

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With kickoff just a few minutes away, here's my prediction:

Indianapolis Colts 31
Chicago Bears 20

I've been going back and forth on this one, but I think the Colts' O will outplay the Bears' D and that the Colts' D will do just enough to keep the Bears' rushing game in check. It's not that I have all that much confidence in Peyton Manning, however. He's a great QB but at best a mediocre playoff performer, even this year. If he's on, even the Bears can't stop him. If he's not, this could be yet another meltdown. But he just has too much talent around him, and if this game comes down to turnovers, I have far more confidence in Manning than in Rex Grossman, perhaps one of the worst QBs ever to lead to team to the big game. He was horrible in the first half against the Saints in the NFC championship game two weeks ago, but he was able to pick apart a more horrible Saints' secondary in the second half and, much to his credit, he didn't turn the ball over. The Colts D isn't great, and it's lousy against the run, but it could be just opportunistic enough to stop the Bears, particularly if DE Dwight Freeney is able to put pressure on Grossman and S Bob Sanders is able to support the LBs in stopping the run.

But I've been picking against the Bears all year even as they've kept winning. And I can see the RB combination of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson running for over 150 yards today. And Grossman has some good WRs to throw to -- in particular, Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian. And even Manning, WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, RBs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, and TE Dallas Clark could be shut down by the LB Brian Urlacher-led Bears D. The Colts have the much better K in former Patriots hero Adam Vinatieri, but the Bears' Robbie Gould has had a pretty good season and won the playoff game over Seattle in OT a few weeks ago.

All good reasons to go with the Bears, but I think this is Manning's year to prove he's one of the best ever. He hasn't had much of a playoff run so far, but he should be able to rise to the occasion and lead the Colts to a win today.

Enjoy the game, everyone. See you later.

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