Thursday, February 01, 2007

NFL Playoffs: Super Bowl XLI

(3) Indianapolis vs. (1) Chicago: The last time these two teams faced each other, it was Week 11 of the 2004 season and the Colts won 41-10 in Chicago. But that hardly counts for anything. It was so long ago.

It's interesting that everyone's going on about how good Indy's rush defence is. Maybe it's that good because all three teams the Colts have faced in the playoffs gave up on the run and it proved to be their un-doing. The Chiefs had 17 rushing attempts, the Ravens had 20, and the Patriots had 24. All 4 teams that beat the Colts in the regular season did so because they were able to grind down the clock and keep the Colts offence off the field. Look at the games the Colts lost: the Cowboys had 36 run plays, Titans had 35, Jags had 42, and the Texans had 42.

...Which brings us to the Bears running game. They ran the ball 503 times this season for an average of 3.8 yards/attempt. That's a lot of attempts (5th in the league) but not a great average. But sometimes all a team has to do is run up the middle for no gain and everything will be fine. The Bears have the luxury of being able to do this and let the defence and special teams win the field position battle. Devin Hester will need to be better on punt and kick returns to give the Bears the advantage.

The Bears did little to contain the Saints' passing attack. Turnovers killed the Saints. And, in the Bears three losses this season, turnovers did them in as well. Since Indy is #22 in takeaways (see below) for the Bears to win all they have to do is protect the ball. It's very simple but easily forgotten in such a big game. Still, the Saints got some big plays on the Bears, and had they held onto the ball, the game could have been way different.

I'm reluctant to pick a dome team because there's only ever been one dome team to win the Super Bowl. The Bears do have a lot going for them in this game but I don't think it will be enough. Let's set the final score at Indianapolis 20, Chicago 17 with Vinateiri getting the game-winner late in the 4th. That means to bet against the spread. Having said that, Manning is well-known for choking in big games, so an outright Bears win wouldn't surprise me at all.

IND #3 total offence vs. CHI #5 total defence
IND #21 total defence vs. CHI #15 total offence

IND #2 scoring offence vs. CHI #3 scoring defence
IND #23 scoring defence vs. CHI #3 scoring offence

IND #18 rushing offence vs. CHI #6 rushing defence
IND #32 rushing defence vs. CHI #15 rushing offence

IND #2 passing offence vs. CHI #11 passing defence
IND #2 passing defence vs. CHI #14 passing offence

IND #22 takeaways vs. CHI #28 giveaways
IND #4 giveaways vs. CHI #1 takeaways

IND #13 punt returns vs. CHI #23 punt coverage
IND #31 punt coverage vs. CHI #2 punt returns

IND #7 kick returns vs. CHI #5 kick coverage
IND #30 kick coverage vs. CHI #8 kick returns