Super Bowl picks: Our experts weigh in
MIAMI -- Will four-time MVP Peyton Manning lead the Colts to their second Super Bowl title in four years? Or will Drew Brees and the Saints' top-ranked offense run off with New Orleans' first NFL championship?
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How do our experts see it? The Colts are the big favorites, but it's far from unanimous. The only thing we know for sure is that everyone has an opinion on the game.
John Clayton: Colts, 27-24
In what should be the close game, Peyton Manning's experience playing in a Super Bowl should be the difference. With seven fourth-quarter comebacks this season and two weeks to prepare for the Saints' defense, Manning will slip past Drew Brees and New Orleans with one or two crucial fourth-quarter scoring drives.
Jeffri Chadiha: Colts, 31-21
Indianapolis has the edge in offense, defense and Super Bowl experience. In other words, this could get ugly.
Tim Graham: Colts, 38-31
Two quarterbacks who know how to exploit a defense's weakness will make Super Bowl XLIV a humdinger. The difference will be the greatest quarterback of this generation shredding the NFL's 25th-ranked defense.
Paul Kuharsky: Colts, 33-20
In the end, Peyton Manning's precision is more than the Saints' defense can handle over 60 minutes. He lifts the Lombardi Trophy again, and his critics have to get more creative. The Colts' D gets some notice too.
Len Pasquarelli: Colts, 27-17
Too much Peyton for Payton.
Mike Sando: Colts, 34-27
Peyton Manning was much more impressive dismantling the Jets than Drew Brees was attacking the Vikings. The Saints have shown plenty capable, but I'm more inclined to trust Manning over the course of four quarters. He can make every possession count.
Kevin Seifert: Colts, 31-21
The Saints' defense is smart and quick. Peyton Manning is smarter and quicker.
Pat Yasinskas: Saints, 31-24
The only difference between Peyton Manning and Drew Brees is that Manning has a Super Bowl ring and Brees doesn't. That's about to change.
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|Matt Mosley||Saints, 28-24||New Orleans had no business beating the Vikings in the NFC title game, and that's why this feels like one of those destiny situations to me. The Colts have the edge at QB, but I think Sean Payton will put together a masterful game plan.|
|James Walker||Colts, 30-20||In a game filled with offense, I'm going with the better defense. I'm shocked the Colts are not getting credit for posting second-half shutouts in back-to-back playoff games.|
|Bill Williamson||Saints, 37-34||Be prepared for a game you'll remember forever: Mix two great quarterbacks who always answer the bell with two defenses that can be vulnerable to the big play and you have the makings of a festival of points. Drew Brees will deliver the final dagger and send Bourbon Street into instant Mardi Gras mode.|
|Greg Garber||Colts, 27-21||Indy has been here -- literally, in Miami -- and done that. Experience takes down first-time Saints.|
|Elizabeth Merrill||Colts, 31-21||You got the sense, right after that wild November comeback win over the Patriots, that nothing fazes these Colts. And they're so comfortable in Miami. Some of them are sleeping in the same hotel rooms they did three years ago, when they won Super Bowl XLI.|
|Gregg Easterbrook||Colts, 20-17||I pick 20-17 not because I have any reason to think that score will happen; 20-17 is simply the most common NFL outcome, happened 11 times this season.|
|David Fleming||Saints, 37-34||The bigger the game the more likely finesse yields to physical.|
|DJ Gallo||Saints, 30-24||New Orleans and Indianapolis have similar defenses. But the Saints' offense is more explosive. That's why I am picking them. Of course, if the Colts win, I was just joking with my pick.|
|Sal Paolantonio||Colts, 28-17||Indianapolis won't turn it over five times, and Peyton Manning kills the blitz.|
|Seth Wickersham||Saints, 34-28||The NFC is simply stronger than the AFC this year. The Saints' road to the Super Bowl was tougher than the Colts', whose defense won't look as good against Drew Brees as it did against Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez.|
|Gene Wojciechowski||Colts, 28-21||The Colts can stick it to all the people who thought they shouldn't have sat their starters against the Jets in Week 16.|
|Rick Reilly||Saints, 27-24||Because I am sick to death of being happy for the Mannings.|
|Chris Berman||Colts, 31-21||Both quarterbacks will have big games. I don't think it's quite the pinball-wizard, high-scoring affair we think it's going to be, but there will still be plenty of points. Peyton Manning may be playing the best football of his career, which is saying a mouthful.|
|Trent Dilfer||Saints, 35-31||The Saints' offense dominates the game, not only finishes drives with touchdowns but gives Peyton limited opportunities.|
|Marcellus Wiley||Colts, 38-23||The NFL's Most Valuable Player will prove his worth once again. Too much Peyton -- Colts win.|
|Trey Wingo||Colts, 37-24||Peyton at the peak of his powers.|
|Mike Tirico||Colts, 34-26||A day for the offenses and the masters of the quarterback craft. áI feel a strong emotional pull toward the Saints but can't go against the best on the biggest stage. Peyton is the gold standard.|
|Tedy Bruschi||Colts, 35-31||No team has beaten the Colts all year.|
|Herm Edwards||Colts, 31-27||The winningest play-caller of the decade, Peyton Manning, will have the biggest impact in this game. Manning's ability to keep his poise under pressure will allow him to focus on the job at hand.|
|Scott Van Pelt||Saints, 28-24||Not one human thinks this can happen, so I will take the Saints (and I'm not happy about it).|
|Jon Gruden||Saints, 30-27||It's the Saints' year. Who Dat!|
|Matt Millen||Colts, 35-31||The Saints' defense is similar to the Jets' in what they try to do and how they give you different looks. They play great as a unit, but it will take Peyton about a half to figure it out.|
|Jeremy Green||Saints, 34-31||With so much hype surrounding the prolific passing offenses in this game the run games have been overlooked. The Saints will run the ball and stop the run, and that will be the difference.|
|Gary Horton||Colts, 31-21||Peyton Manning can carve up even elite defenses. The Saints do not fit in that category, but at least they are opportunistic. Manning will make the necessary adjustments, and the Saints will be shocked at the speed of the Colts' defense.|
|Doug Kretz||Colts, 31-26||Even if Dwight Freeney is unable to play, the Colts will put too much pressure on Drew Brees as well as on the back end with their cover corners. Both teams will score plenty, but Peyton Manning will end up with the ball at the end and punch it in.|
|Ken Moll||Colts, 30-20||Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been held at bay (zero sacks) in the postseason, but will get to Drew Brees in this game coming off the edge. If Peyton Manning had had this year's Colts' defense in previous seasons, he would have won at least one more Super Bowl.|
|Matt Williamson||Colts, 30-21||This is the score I picked when I wrote my scouting report and I will stick with it, although the more I dig into it, the more I feel like the Colts will win by double digits. Because of nerves and being on such a huge stage, expect the Saints to start slowly. That won't happen to Peyton Manning.|
ESPN.com NFL editors
|John Banks||Colts, 35-24||The only question will be where this Indianapolis team will rank in NFL history. Better than three-time winner New England? Better than the Steelers of the 2000s? Anybody think anyone else but Peyton Manning will be this game's MVP?|
|Jamar Hudson||Colts, 31-27||In what will go down as one of the best Super Bowls ever, Peyton Manning will engineer a late fourth-quarter drive to give the Colts the win and solidify his spot among the all-time greats.|
|Alex Kimball||Colts, 31-27||The Saints have a shot after scoring a late touchdown, but they fall short of the end zone in the final seconds.|
|Sheldon Spencer||Saints, 38-24||Beano Cook says this is going to happen. Who are we to argue?|
|Patrick Stiegman||Colts, 35-24||Three reasons the winningest franchise of the decade will add another Super Bowl title: (1) The Colts will boast eight of the top 10 players on the field, and they are all at explosive, play-making positions -- QB, WR, TE and DE; (2) The Colts converted nearly 50 percent of their third-down opportunities in 2009; (3) Toss out the two meaningless games after clinching home field, and the Colts were plus-6 in turnover margin. The Saints will score, but the Colts will soar.|
|Scott Symmes||Colts, 32-24||In 2009 (and 2010), we haven't seen the Colts fall short when their sole focus was winning. We won't see it on Sunday, either. Peyton Manning will be a step ahead of the Saints' defense and will guide Indy to a semi-comfortable victory.|
SAINTS WIN FIRST SUPER BOWL