Colts DEs Dwight Freeney/Robert Mathis/Raheem Brock vs. Saints OTs Jermon Bushrod/Jon Stinchcomb: There's probably a good chance that Freeney will not play due to his ankle injury. Even if he sees very limited work, the tandem of Mathis and Brock is expected to see the bulk of the playing time.
Stinchcomb, a solid four-year starter, made the Pro Bowl this season for the first time. He'll have to come up big against Mathis, who will try to pick up the slack if right end Dwight Freeney can't play because of a ligament problem in his ankle. The 245-pound Mathis could be a big problem for Stinchcomb with his speed-rushing ability. He had 9.5 sacks this season and five forced fumbles.
Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Colts MLB Gary Brackett: With Freeney looking iffy for Super Bowl XLIIV, getting pressure on Brees will be the key for Indianapolis. Brackett has blitzed more from his middle linebacking spot this season. His quickness to the football and ability to read offenses will be important.
Colts kickoff and punt coverage units vs. Saints WR Courtney Roby/RB Reggie Bush: Indianapolis has shown a vast improvement in is kick and punt coverage units this year. But the last time the Colts were in a Super Bowl game, they allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown on the game's opening play. Keeping both Roby and Bush contained is a major prerogative.
Saints CBs Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter vs. Colts QB Peyton Manning: The last time these teams met in the 2007 season opener, Manning simply roasted the Saints' secondary. He was 18-of-30 for 288 yards and three TDs and it could have been worse if the Colts hadn't jumped out to a big lead in their eventual 41-10 victory. Greer and Porter weren't around then, so the Saints have to hope they're up to the task, which they have been most of the season, against Manning and top-notch receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon.
Saints RBs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush vs. Colts front seven: The Saints will have to run the football against the Colts to be successful, so a mixture of flash and dash with Thomas and Bush could be what Sean Payton orders up. They've complemented each other quite well in the playoffs and picking up some tough yards against a smallish Colts' front seven — except for the defensive tackles — could make a big difference.
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