I got your Super Bowl lock right here. Take it to the bank. Frame it, bronze it, put it on ice.
The Chicago Bears will defeat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
I know, I know. The answer is some really potent Lebanese Blonde and you can’t have any.
But you don’t have to be smoking nothin’ to look at this game and see a narrow Bears victory in the offing. The fact is, the Colts need Peyton Manning to step up big time while the Bears only need Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman not to screw up.
And the Bears defense is replete with playmakers with a nose for the ball and a demonstrated ability to cause turnovers anywhere on the field. The Saints swore they spent the entire week before the NFC Championship game stressing ball security and look what happened to them; 4 fumbles (3 lost) and an interception.
Finally, when this week started, I would have given the game to the Colts. But something happened to the Bears on Media Day and the days since; they got mad. They got mad about the Colts being coronated by most of the country’s sports press. They got mad about hearing how inadequate Wonder Dog is. They got mad about people still questioning their greatness after winning 15 games.
But even beyond that, the Bears are surprisingly mad at…Da Bears – the 1985 version of The Beloveds. Apparently they don’t like the constant comparisons between the two teams (much to their disadvantage) nor do they appreciate how players from that team are popping up all over TV and bragging how their team was so much better than the 2007 Beloveds.
And if you’ve never seen an angry Bear, I suggest you keep little children and women from watching the game because it’s gonna get bloody. The Colts might be a confident and intense crew, ready to give their best today. But the Bears appear to me to be the more emotional club. That defense is going to be flying around the field delivering titanic blows while seeking to strip the ball on every play. Manning will get his yards but I think the defense stops the Colts from scoring touchdowns, holding them to field goals while the offense gets good field position a couple of times thanks to some timely turnovers. And perhaps Hester breaks one.
Of course, all bets are off if Wonder Dog chokes. While Rex proved he can manage a big game, I think in order for the Bears to win, Grossman is going to have to make plays. And if he’s just a bit off and gets picked a couple of times early, it will be a very long and depressing day for The Beloveds.
Here are a couple of keys that I see making the difference between victory and defeat for both teams.
BEARS O-LINE VS. INDY D-LINE
Bears need to run the ball. Indy needs to stop the run. In the end, it may be that simple. If the Bears rush for more than 150 yards, they probably win. And on pass protection, if Feeny can get to Grossman before Rex can get rid of the ball, the chances increase dramatically for Bears turnovers .
Conversely, if the running game is clicking, Feeny is slowed down by play action and Rex gets the extra second or two to set his feet and fire the ball. Watch and see how much pressure Indy puts on Grossman right off the bat. Ron Turner may use the draw play a lot if Indy’s ends are charging upfield.
Indy can afford to blitz a little more given Wonder Dog’s inexperience. But Bears backs Jones and McKie have been excellent all year at picking off blitzing backers before they get to Rex so Indys red dogging may actually play into the Bears hands.
If the Bears are still within 10 points midway through the third quarter, watch them start really pressing the run, hoping they can wear down the Indy defense. They’ve done it many times this year and tonight should be no different.
BEARS CORNERS VS. MANNING & CO.
No players on the field will have a tougher job than the Bears cornerbacks in covering the talented trio of wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, and Indys bull-necked tight end Dallas Clark.
Harrison may have lost a step but is still cat-quick and crafty. Wayne is a burner with great hands and a knack for finding the soft spot in the zone.
But the X-Factor has to be Dallas Clark, a 265 pound tight end with speed and soft hands. Covering the tight end will be nickel back Ricky Manning, Jr. Ricky has had a great post season and will have his hands full with Clark. Expect help for Ricky from Urlacher and Briggs – especially Urlacher as Peyton Manning likes to find Clark down a seam in the middle of the field. Urlacher broke up two passes against the Saints in just such a circumstance, covering the slot receiver 20 yards downfield.
Ricky must be aggressive or Clark will manhandle him. The same goes for the other CB’s Nathan Vashar and Charles Tillman. If they give the Indy wideouts room, the game will become a nightmare. Peyton Manning is just too accurate and the Indy receivers are just too good getting yardage after the catch for our corners to play 5 yards off the ball and try to keep everything in front of them. Wayne especially doesn’t like contact at the line so pressing him makes sense. Harrison, however, thrives on press coverage, giving him an opportunity to make one of his patented double moves that has made more than one NFL cornerback look silly. This is where the Bears pass rush comes in. If they can get to Manning before Harrison or Wayne are finished running their routes and the Indy QB has to check down to Addai or Rhodes, there’s a good chance the defense can stop Indy in their tracks.
I expect a couple of big plays by Wayne – perhaps even a long score. But if the Bears want to win, they cannot do so by simply trying to “contain” the Indy attack. They must be aggressive and stop it cold.
Indy has the edge in their field goal kicker. Bears have the edge in their punter and return unit. Vinatieri may be the best clutch kicker in history. Any conditions, any situation, he can hit from up to 55 yards out. The Bears pro-bowler Robbie Gould is excellent but untested in this kind of pressure cooker. Look for Viniatieri to hit at least 3 perhaps 4 field goals during the course of the game. I think The Beloveds defense will bend, not break which will give the Indy legend plenty of opportunities to score.
If Wonder Dog is underperforming, the Bears will rely on punter Brad Maynard to get them out of trouble. Maynard is one of the best in the league at nestling the ball inside the 20 yard line and if he can keep Indy pinned and give Manning a long field to work with, the Bears chances for victory will increase significantly.
What else can you say about Devin Hester that already hasn’t been said? The rookie’s mouth must be watering at the prospect of going up against one of the worst kick coverage units in football. This doesn’t translate into touchdowns but I think there is a very good chance that Hester will indeed break one and thrill Bears fans watching throughout the world.
All in all, the Bears special teams should clean up. But Vinatieri has a nasty habit of showing up at the worst times – like when you have a 1 or 2 point lead late and the legend lines up to break your heart. But Hester was made for the Big Game and I think he will shock us all.
Give Indy the advantage in the passing game, field goal kicker, and pass rush.
Give My Beloveds the advantage in defense, special teams, and the ability to cause turnovers.
Intangibles are even. Indy has been disappointed so many times they feel this is their year. They are supremely confident.
The Beloveds feel they get no respect and are mad as hell about how they think they’ve been treated by everyone.
As far as coaching, another wash. In-game adjustments? Advantage Indy. Preparing his players and motivating them? Lovie.
This game will turn on one or two plays made either by the Indy offense or Bears defense/special teams.
Prediction: Bears 21 Colts 20.