Can the AFC continue its dominance of NFC?

Feb 2, 2010 5:10 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist |

The top two seeds in both conferences have made it to the Super Bowl. That’s not the norm, as it hasn’t happened since 1993. The Colts are looking for their second Super Bowl title in four seasons while the Saints make their first trip to the big game.

We are in a golden age for the AFC, favored again to win. It’s almost as if the pendulum has swung. During the 1980s and much of the 90s, the NFC dominated, winning 15 of 16 Super Bowls, including 13 in a row. That changed in 1998 when Denver upset Green Bay, 31-24. Since then, the AFC has won 9 of the last 12, including last year.

Offense is what makes the Saints go, averaging 31.9 points and 403 yards. QB Drew Brees (34 TDs, 11 picks, 4,388 yards, a record 70.6% completions) has an incredible array of targets with WRs Marques Colston (1,074 yds), Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem, plus TE Jeremy Shockey. The running game has a three-headed attack with Pierre Thomas (793, 5.4 ypc), Mike Bell and Reggie Bush. Even with the top-ranked offense in the league, New Orleans (15-3 SU, 9-8-1 ATS) is on a 7-4 run under the total.

The Colts (16-2 SU, 11-6-1 ATS) also have a great passing attack for first-year Coach Jim Caldwell. Four-time MVP QB Peyton Manning (33 TDs, 16 INTs) leads the second ranked passing offense with the help of WR Reggie Wayne (1,264 yards) and TE Dallas Clark. Manning just completed 26-of-39 passes for 377 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions in the AFC title game against the NFL’s No. 1 defense!

The real wild card in all this is the Indy defense. They have been great in the postseason, allowing 20 points in two games, but that was against one-dimensional offenses of the Ravens and Jets. The Colts finished 18th in the regular season in total defense, though DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have looked sharp after taking much of the last month off to get healthy.

What the Saints want to do: First, they don’t want to panic. Many of the players haven’t been on this big a stage. Second, the offense looked out of rhythm in the NFC Championship game against the Vikings, sputtering on third down with 257 total yards. They won’t score 31 points against the Colts if they get that few yards.

The defense loves to attack and try and force turnovers, stripping the ball and blitzing opposing quarterbacks. They do that out of necessity, trying to mask defensive weaknesses. They allowed 475 yards to the Vikings, but won because of 5 turnovers (3 fumbles). Look for the Saints to try and strip the ball on every tackle. As for trying to stop Manning: good luck! The only person to stop Manning was his own coach, who pulled him out of the Jets game in Week 16.

What the Colts want to do: Indy doesn’t run the football well (32nd in the league), but it hasn’t mattered as they continue to ride the golden right arm of Manning. They could have success this game, though, as the Saints are 22nd in run defense and all that blitzing can allow gains on draw plays.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Jim Feist