Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion,” you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.
Five Reasons You Might Want to Bet on the Saints in the Super Bowl
Everyone loves an underdog. But you’re probably going to need better rationale than “ah, I'm just betting on the team facing longer odds” come Super Sunday. Thus, you need to memorize every word from this point on so that you can effectively defend your gambling choices.
Caution: this list is going to lean very heavily towards the Saints for… obvious reasons. (Don’t memorize this part.)
5. How quickly we forget
The three most popular reasons people are favoring the Colts:
- The Colts have won every game they’ve tried to win, this year
- The Colts have been on the big stage before
- Peyton Manning is the MVP and arguably the greatest quarterback ever
Fair enough. But do me a favor and think back to 2007, when the New England Patriots entered the Super Bowl carrying these same three advantages against an even larger underdog opponent.
How’d that work out for the Patriots?
(Also: while Manning has had a pretty astounding 18-month stretch, don’t forget that, prior to this year’s playoffs, the guy was 7-8 in his postseason career so… let’s pump the brakes on all the foregone conclusions.)
4. The Saints are not as inexperienced as you think
As mentioned above, one of the biggest advantages the Colts are said to hold over the Saints is that of big game experience. The Colts have been here before and the Saints have not.
While there’s no way to deny that the Colts won the Super Bowl three years ago, it is not as if this Saints team is in the playoffs for the first time ever. Do you remember where the Saints were, three years ago? They made it to the NFC Championship game. We almost had a Colts-Saints Super Bowl in February 2007. Does experience not count if you lose?
In addition to having the same coaching staff (overlooked bit of experience: Saints’ head coach Sean Payton was the offensive coordinator for the 2000 NFC champion New York Giants), there are several relevant Saints from that 2006 team who are still on the team:
- Drew Brees
- Reggie Bush
- Marques Colston
- Jahri Evans
- Scott Fujita
- Jonathan Goodwin
- Charles Grant
- Roman Harper
- Devery Henderson
- Lance Moore
- Jamar Nesbit
- Scott Shanle
- Will Smith
- Jon Stinchcomb
- Zach Strief
And don’t forget that Bush, Colston, Moore, Evans, Harper, and Strief were all rookies in 2006 (translation: they’re better, now).
On top of that? The Saints have since added several players who have playoff experience acquired on other teams. Kyle Eckel, Heath Evans, Randall Gay, and David Thomas were all on the 2007 Patriots team that went to the Super Bowl (among others). Darren Sharper played on several playoff teams in Green Bay and Minnesota. Kendrick Clancy played on several good Steelers teams before joining the Saints in 2007. Chris McAlister played on the perpetually playoff-bound Baltimore Ravens, including their 2000 Super Bowl team.
That's 22 players who have pretty solid big game experience. So… yeah, I think the Saints should be just fine, experience-wise.
3. The Saints’ offense is good, remember?
Maybe it’s because they packed it in during the last three weeks of the regular season but everyone seems to have completely forgotten that this year’s Saints’ offense was/is astoundingly prolific.
To that point: why hasn’t more been made of the fact that the offensive numbers for the 2009 Saints bear a stark resemblance to that of the 1999 St. Louis Rams (that was “The Greatest Show on Turf” that went on to win the Super Bowl, if you’ll remember)?
Total points: Rams – 526, Saints – 510
Points per game: Rams – 32.9, Saints – 31.9
Total yards: Rams – 6412, Saints – 6461
Yards per play: Rams – 6.5, Saints – 6.3
First downs: Rams – 335, Saints – 348
Completions: Rams – 343, Saints – 373
Pass attempts: Rams – 530, Saints – 544
Pass yards: Rams – 4353, Saints – 4355
Pass touchdowns: Rams – 43, Saints – 34
Interceptions: Rams – 15, Saints – 12
Net yards per attempt: Rams – 7.7, Saints – 7.7
Passing 1st downs: Rams – 207, Saints – 215
Rush attempts: Rams – 431, Saints – 468
Rush yards: Rams – 2059, Saints – 2106
Rush touchdowns: Rams – 13, Saints – 21
Yards per rush: Rams – 4.8, Saints – 4.5
Rushing 1st downs: Rams – 102, Saints – 115
Turnovers: Rams – 31, Saints – 28
Fumbles lost: Rams – 16, Saints – 16
The biggest difference between the two offenses is that the Rams had Marshall Faulk (over 2300 combined yards from scrimmage in 1999) while the Saints depend on three running backs (Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas, and Reggie Bush).
But still, look at those numbers. Pretty good.
2. Common opponents
Though admittedly not the most empirical tool of comparison, examining the common opponents of the two Super Bowl teams can effectively illustrate the differences between the two and whether or not the underdog really deserves to be the underdog.
Both the Colts and the Saints played the following teams this past year:
- Arizona Cardinals
- Buffalo Bills
- Miami Dolphins
- New England Patriots
- New York Jets
- St. Louis Rams
We’ll throw out the Colts’ losses to the Jets and Bills in Weeks 16 and 17 respectively, as the team clearly was not trying to win either game. However, the Colts did play the Jets again in the playoffs, so we can consider that Colts-Jets game for comparison.
a. Arizona Cardinals
The Colts won at Arizona in Week 3, 31-10.
The Saints won at home in Round 2, 45-14.
b. Miami Dolphins
The Colts won at Miami in Week 2, 27-23.
The Saints won at Miami in Week 6, 46-34.
c. New England Patriots
The Colts won at home in Week 10, 35-34.
The Saints won at home in Week 11, 38-17.
d. New York Jets
The Colts won at home in the playoffs, 30-17.
The Saints won at home in Week 4, 24-10.
e. St. Louis Rams
The Colts won at St. Louis in Week 6, 42-6.
The Saints won at St. Louis in Week 9, 28-23.
So, as you can clearly see, the Saints performed just as well as the Colts in these five comparable scenarios.
1. The Saints are not supposed to win
All right, after all that, I still can’t come up with a better reason than this. It’s the Saints! They’ve never been to the Super Bowl, their team has a long history of losing, and they are the decided underdog in this game.