Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning. How many times have you read or heard the name Peyton Manning this week?
A million times.
Is it worthy of mention so often? Could Manning single-handedly beat the Patriots defense?
This is the ultimate chess match. It's a great QB, who reads defenses, against a defense that most quarterbacks can't read.
Marv Levy compared Manning to Johnny Unitas in a conversation we had this week.
I can't think of higher praise.
But the story here might not be Manning necessarily. It might be the Colts' receivers. Belichick and Romeo Crennel expect their defensive backs to get very physical with the Colt receivers. If you can't stop Manning altogether, then you have to stop his weapons. It's the same concept the Patriots had with Kurt Warner and his speedy receivers in the Super Bowl two years ago.
This is also a game where the Patriots could conceivably have a better running game than the Colts. The Patriots can stop Edgerrin James, but can the Colts defense stop Antowain Smith?
What bothers me on the Patriots side is the loss of Damien Woody. Nothing against Russ Hochstein, but Woody is the Patriots' best offensive lineman. The Colts have fast linemen. Dwight Freeney is a speed rusher who could give Matt Light some difficulty. You know the Colts are going to go right at Hochstein with everything they have. That's why Bill Belichick was not very happy that word got out of Woody's injury. Now the Colts can certainly game plan knowing Woody won't play.
Back to Manning. He's playing as well now as Jim Kelly was playing in the playoffs prior to losing to the Giants, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV. That Belichick defense contained Kelly and the no-huddle offense fairly well. Football people say that nobody is playing quarterback better than Manning right now. But it could it be by the end of the day Sunday that Tom Brady has a better day than Manning? Absolutely. You know Brady has a great defense to support him. Manning does not.
While we're at it we might as well talk about the weather. The Colts are a dome team, but they've risen to every weather/venue challenge this season. They've won in Florida. They've won in the noisiest outdoor stadium in the league in Kansas City. Now they're being questioned on whether they can win in the cold in New England. In my opinion, not a factor.
Nothing would surprise me on Sunday. It would not surprise me if the Colts won the game. It wouldn't surprise me if the Patriots won going away.
Until the Patriots show you they can't win the game, then you pick them. I'm picking them to advance to the Super Bowl vs. the Carolina Panthers, as much as I'd love to see a New England-Philly Super Bowl. Continued...