The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts will face off this Sunday in the biggest game of the season, with a championship -- and the pride of their cities -- on the line for the league's two top teams.
Hype has been building for months around both clubs, as Peyton Manning surged to another near-flawless Colts season and Saints quarterback Drew Brees upped the ante, taking his team to the main stage for the first time in history.
So who's got the edge in the final showdown? Here's the experts' take:
In the Colts corner
ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski gives 15 reasons the Colts will wrap up the Bowl for Indianapolis, saying experience, a stacked team, the club's storied history, and most of all, "Manning the Great" will take the Midwest team to the top."My heart says to pick the New Orleans Saints...But every other body part says to go with the Indianapolis Colts," Wojciechowski writes.
For all his accolades, Manning still has a fire in his belly -- and something to prove, Jim Trotter writes for SI.com, saying that combined with the Colts' stellar defense, Manning's desire to push his team to the top will propel his team to a win. "Sunday's Super Bowl is an opportunity for Manning to finally provide a signature game in an illustrious career," he writes.
Even if the Colts trail the Saints early, they've proven they can come back from deficits time and time again -- a valuable asset in a pressure-packed Bowl, Sean Leahy writes for USA Today. "Even if the Saints offense jumps out to a big lead Sunday, it's impossible to count out the Colts," Leahy says.
The Colts' most potent weapon, behind Peyton? Kicker Matt Slover, Dennis Dillonwrites for NFL blog Sporting News. Slover is 5-5 on playoff field goal attempts, Dillon points out: "If the Colts need a game-winning kick, Slover's foot leaves them in good hands."
Praying for the Saints
Forget about that other Peyton -- its the swagger of Saints coach Sean Payton that will bring the Bowl trophy back to Louisiana, Adam Schein writes for FoxSports.com. "For the first time in Saints history, Payton gives his team an unprecedented winning attitude," Schein writes.
The Saints are diverse enough to run with Manning's army no matter what style the Indianapolis club throws their way, Steve Wyche writes for NFL.com. "The Saints can play any game the Colts want to play," he writes in support of the Louisiana club.
The Colts may have experience on their side, but the Saints have something more important on theirs: karma, Don Banks writes for SI.com. The team has taken on the burden of a battered New Orleans -- and is due something in return: "Good karma doesn't win championships on its own, but it sure doesn't hurt when a team believes it's playing for something larger than itself," Banks writes.
It's that hometown support that will bring the Saints to victory tonight, Jay Mariotti writes for NFL Fanhouse. New Orleans has adopted the Saints as part of its city, its culture, and its people: and Mariotti writes the Bowl presents "the chance to leave behind heartache and finally rejoice as one in ways no outsider can grasp."