02/03/2007: Now that almost every serious commentator has picked the Indianapolis Colts to win by a rout, I would caution the naysayers to be very wary of the Bears. I would not at all be surprised if Rex Grossman does a Trent Dilfer and ends up hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy.
In fact, this Super Bowl matchup reminds me of 1984, during which the Washington Redskins–of Joe Theismann, John Riggins, the Hogs, and Darrell Green–were heavily favored against the Los Angeles Raiders.
The 1983-84 Raiders were a smashmouth team. They hit you hard, even landing a few cheap shots. They could sack the quarterback, block punts, intercept the ball, cause fumbles, and even create some big plays on offense.
That Raiders team punched the Redskins in the mouth. Jim Plunkett established himself as a big-gamer, Marcus Allen had the longest run in SB history, Lester Hayes created trouble for the Redskin offense. Right before halftime, Theismann attempted a screen pass from his own end zone, which Jack Squirek returned–two yards–for a touchdown.
The final score? Raiders 38, Redskins 9.
Make no mistake: the Bears very much resemble those Raiders of old.
They are a physical team, capable of making big plays on defense. They may not be the 1999-2000 Ravens, but they are plenty tough. Just ask the Saints.
Their offense is weak but underrated: they can run the ball, and Rex Grossman has made some big plays in the postseason. Just ask the Eagles.
Their special teams are spectacular, and with Devin Hester they have the capacity to score very quickly and erase big leads. Just ask Dennis Green.
As for the Colts? They very much resemble that old Redskins team: they can run the ball; their quarterback is among the best in the game; their receivers are excellent.
Their defense–like the Bears offense–is weak, but undderrated.
While the Colts run defense has done well in the postseason, it remains to be seen if they can turn out three clutch games in a row.
As for the Colts offense, Manning has yet to win a Super Bowl, and has been known to throw lots of interceptions in big games. Two weeks ago, he beat an old nemesis, but in order to win it all he must have two big games in a row, which is two more than he has had in his whole career until this year.
Basically, in order for the Colts to win, their run defense must turn in their third strong game in a row, and Peyton Manning must repeat the very performance that he had yet to make until two weeks ago. And their special teams must not give up any big plays.
That hardly sounds like a lock to me.
That said, I would love to see the Colts win. I would not want to see Peyton go the way of Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino: the ranks of great quarterbacks with fewer Super Bowl rings than Trent Dilfer. I would also love to see Tony Dungy–one of the great class acts in the NFL–gain the ring, and the respect, he deserves.
But Lovie Smith and the Bears are hardly pushovers, and I would not be surprised if they won.
In fact, if Grossman only completes half his passes without throwing an interception, a Bears rout would not be out of the realm of possibilities.