It probably should have been obvious when the conference championship games were over, but the 44th Super Bowl — and that reminds me, don't you think it is about time to dispense with the Roman numerals? — isn't going to be your daddy's Super Bowl.
For one thing, the teams aren't your usual suspects, if such a thing exists in pro football. Certain teams — New England, Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco come to mind — have been there more often than most, but the Colts will be making only their second appearance in the last 40 years and the Saints will be playing in their very first Super Bowl.
For another, the two teams with the best records in their leagues will be facing each other. That doesn't happen very often. Since the NFL introduced playoff seedings in 1975, the top two seeds have met eight times. On six of those occasions, the NFC's representative was the winner — which may be good news for New Orleans.
Something else to keep in mind. There is usually little news of any real significance from either team in the traditional two–week period between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
But this year may be different. There is already talk that Indianapolis may have to play without defensive end Dwight Freeney, and most NFL fans would probably tell you that Freeney is the best defensive player in a game that seems top heavy with offensive stars. Peter King of Sports Illustrated says that, if Freeney can't play, it will make running the offense much easier for New Orleans. And he's right.
How much does Freeney mean to Indianapolis? Well, Scouts, Inc. came up with rankings for all the players who are expected to suit up for Sunday's game. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was rated "best player on the planet." There are probably some dissenters scattered around the country, but I'm inclined to go along with that. The next six were judged the "elite players." Freeney was one of those six.
Most folks probably wouldn't argue that point, either. Freeney was responsible for 13½ sacks this season as well as 24 tackles, 19 of which were solo efforts. That's going to be tough to replace.
We'll see if that is a decision the Colts are forced to make.